Wyoming companies could be banned from using renewable energy with new state legislation

The legislation proposes that heavy fines by levied on utilities that continue to, or begin, providing energy from coal, hydroelectric, natural gas and small scale wind or solar production

Caroline Mortimer
Tuesday 24 January 2017 18:38
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A coal fired power plant in Laramie, Wyoming. The state is one of the largest coal producers in the country
A coal fired power plant in Laramie, Wyoming. The state is one of the largest coal producers in the country

Producing electricity with large-scale renewable energy projects could become illegal in Wyoming under new legislation filed by politicians in the state.

The Republican-controlled state legislature introduced the measure that would forbid utility companies from supplying energy to the grid that comes from large-scale wind or solar projects.

​The bill’s nine sponsors, which include two state senators and seven state representatives, largely come from Wyoming’s top coal-producing counties which have been threatened by the arrival of shale gas and the spread of renewable energy sources.

It proposes that heavy fines by levied on utilities that continue to, or begin, providing energy from “non-eligible” sources.

The move is supposed to ensure that 95 per cent of Wyoming’s energy comes from “eligible resources” by 2018 and 100 per cent by 2019.

“Eligible resources” are defined as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas and small scale wind or solar production – meaning rooftop solar panels or wind turbines for individual homeowners or small businesses private use would not be allowed.

Despite the proposals, energy experts and activists say it is unlikely to become law.

“I think there will be a lot of concerns about its workability and whether this is something the state needs to do," Shannon Anderson, the director of local organising group Powder River Basin Resource Council, told InsideClimate News.

"It seems to be 'talking-point' legislation at this point."

But she stressed that the development was very troubling, saying she had never “seen anything like this before” and it was “essentially a reverse renewable energy standard”.

Wyoming is currently the largest producer and consumer of coal in the US.

Nearly 90 per cent of the state’s electricity was generated through coal, according to the most recent data.

Renewable energy, mainly wind power, was the second largest source.

As a large sparsely populated state with vast energy resources Wyoming is a net producer of energy.

It is set to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Donald Trump’s pledge to revitalise the struggling coal industry. On the campaign trail he claimed clean energy was bad for the economy.

Within days of taking office he announced plans to roll back environmental regulations at a meeting with the heads of several car firms – saying “environmentalism is out of control”.

He has also signed an executive action permitting the development of the Keystone IX and the Dakota Access Pipeline which the Obama Administration had previously blocked.

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