The Benefits of Renewable Energy

As the author notes in the front-page article "Competition Hoped to Bring Cheaper Power," Sept. 16, deregulation of the electric-power industry poses many challenges and problems. Reliability, fair pricing, and a competitive market are by no means a sure thing. Another significant danger, not mentioned by the author, is the impact deregulation could have on renewable-energy production.

Renewable-energy technologies, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal power, provide a wide range of benefits, including: cleaner air, reduced climate-change emissions, increased energy security, and more jobs and economic opportunity, especially in rural areas.

Unfortunately, because clean energy produced from renewables is not recognized as more valuable in the marketplace, resources such as wind and solar power today might not survive "price only" competition.

Renewables currently cost a little more than fossil fuels and, in a deregulated electricity market, could disappear, taking their many benefits with them. It is critical to deliberately nurture renewable energy through the transition to a more-competitive energy landscape so that these essential technologies continue to develop and their prices continue to drop.

One way to support renewables and preserve their benefits is to create a "renewables portfolio standard" that requires all electricity suppliers to provide a small percentage of their energy from renewable resources. Suppliers could either produce the renewable energy themselves or trade from other producers, whichever is cheapest. Such a clean power portfolio would have low costs and would fairly enlist everyone in this effort. Most importantly, it would build the market for renewables and create the manufacturing economies of scale that would enable renewable technologies to compete successfully for a large share of an open competitive market.

Michael W. Tennis

Cambridge, Mass.

Senior Energy Analyst

Union of Concerned Scientists

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