While developing a
national consensus on climate change policies and the reduction of
carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) has been elusive,
to say the least, several entities have been independently tackling the
issue. From the U.S. Senate to municipal power systems - and several
levels in between - a climate change policy is developing ad hoc
between various government levels, utilities and other private sector
While policies with a national focus are a
ways from being put in place, wind generation could be a beneficiary.
Project developments are being encouraged, and those yet to be proposed
are seen as viable mitigation strategies to meet any future caps on CO2
An amendment to mandate emissions
reductions failed during U.S. Senate consideration of the Energy Policy
Act of 2005, but a separate resolution gave the issue some momentum at
the federal level.
Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a "sense
of the Senate" resolution that says, in part, that Congress "should
enact a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory,
market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases
that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions."
A white paper on the subject was released
in March to discuss elements of an eventual market design of any
trading regimen. In April, the Senate Energy Committee, headed by Sen.
Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., took its first
step by holding a day-long hearing to discuss any potential mandatory
Also, utilities across the country have
promised to reduce emissions over the next several years. Some of these
reductions are by percentages that are in the double digits, and many
are intended to be in place early in the next decade.
"Credible science shows us we must address
the growth of carbon emissions in a comprehensive way," says Jeff
Sterba, chairman, president and chief executive officer of PNM
Resources, a New Mexico-based energy holding company.
"While voluntary efforts have been and
continue to be critical, I believe it is time to consider how to design
a mandatory policy that addresses all sectors of the economy and
focuses on technology development as the best way to protect our
environment and standard of living into the future."
He says the growing body of scientific
evidence linking increasing atmospheric concentrations of GHG emissions
to warming of the earth's temperature is compelling.
PNM has conducted a company-wide inventory of GHG emissions from its
operations, and has taken several steps to reduce CO2 and other
emissions, including the purchase of all of the energy generated by a
200-MW wind farm in eastern New Mexico.
Whether renewables like wind energy will be
recognized for their value in a carbon-regulated market depends on how
the rules are implemented.
But how offset projects are evaluated,
qualified and regulated is a concern for groups like the Regional
Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) - a cooperative effort by seven
Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. RGGI is holding its own discussions
for the design of a regional cap-and-trade program initially covering
CO2 emissions from power plants in the region.
California, as one of the world's largest
GHG emitters, saw Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year sign an
executive order calling for a reduction of those emissions to 2000
levels by 2010. The effort has drawn the support of at least 50
Also, the California Climate Action
Registry, a volunteer organization, has been created to track, report
and certify GHG emissions.
"We are confident that the statewide
registry will serve to keep our customers and others informed of our
progress in stemming greenhouse gas emissions - a part of our overall
mission to protect the environment," says Larry Owens, division manager
of customer services for Silicon Valley Power (SVP). "As an avid
supporter of renewable energy, we also offer our customers many
opportunities to be environmentally proactive."
Santa Clara Green Power, SVP's program that
supports 100% clean wind and solar power, has a nearly 5% participation
Even without U.S. approval of the Kyoto
Protocol, which jump-started emerging GHG markets in other countries,
many believe the U.S. will participate in some fashion (probably
through the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Environmental Protection
Agency's Climate Leaders cap-and-trade programs that exist for other
"While the U.S. is not a participant in the
Kyoto trading scheme, it will eventually be part of some other global
market," says Bjorn Fischer, business manager for The Climate Trust in
Portland, Ore. "We believe the U.S. will soon be the host of the
largest emission trading market in the world, and that market will
include project-based offsets."