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Will Wyoming Outlaw Renewable Energy?

20 Jan 16:00 by Steve Walia

Wyoming Landscape

The state of Wyoming in the USA is weighing up a bill that would make renewable energy illegal in the state. Called the Electricity Production standard, it would apply penalties to utility firms in Wyoming that generate power from wind or solar energy.

Instead, it would only permit electricity to be generated from approved sources, including natural gas, oil, coal, hydropower and nuclear. Both wind and solar power have been excluded from the approved list of fuel sources.

This means that if the bill passes through the legislature, the state's utility firms would be fined $10 per megawatt hour for all instances where electricity was produced using renewable energy for state consumers.

Wyoming has long had a reputation as one of the most coal-supportive parts of America, but local groups and businesses aren't sure how seriously to take the news. The state has long relied on coal as a key part of its economy, with coal production representing over 11pc of the gross state product in 2012, and it comes with associated local labour and economic benefits. Additionally, direct tax on that coal produced over $1.3 billion in local government and state tax revenues.

Over 90pc of the coal produced in Wyoming goes to make electricity, which means that electricity demand is a powerful factor in affecting the state's economy. Already, Wyoming is the only US state that applies taxes to wind power production. Electricity demand has been decreasing in recent years, driven by efficiencies, better utilisation of electricity, alternative and cleaner fuel sources and other usage pattern factors.

As a result, plans to build what would have been the largest wind farm in the USA in Wyoming's Carbon County were suspended indefinitely over fears of a rise in state wind taxes. It appears that the fears were well founded.