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The Missoulian
March 20, 2013

Renewable energy standard works

Most companies on the Fortune 100 list have adopted policies to increase their use of renewable energy. The reason is simple: Renewable energy is good business. America’s largest, most-successful businesses know that renewable energy diversifies their energy supplies, which, among other benefits, can smooth out the volatile price-swings common among traditional energy sources. Renewables also reduce companies’ long-term operating costs.


Montana has its own commitment to renewable energy. In 2005, the Legislature adopted a standard calling for 15 percent of the power distributed by major utilities to come from new renewable sources like wind or solar. The state and its utilities are already meeting that standard well ahead of the 2015 deadline, mostly with wind power. But now the Legislature is talking about moving in the opposite direction – to water down the state’s renewable-energy standard in a way that renders it meaningless and is bad for business.


My company, Calvert Investments, is a management fund specializing in sustainable and responsible investments. We have over $12 billion under management. Our holdings include such companies as Google, Coca-Cola and AT&T. Calvert Investments helped commission the recent report “Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy,” which found that more than half of Fortune 100 companies and two-thirds of Fortune’s Global 100 companies have set renewable-energy commitments. What we found in the study is that the best, most competitive companies approach renewable energy the way they approach everything.


Successful companies, by definition, know how to make money – for themselves and investors. Good businesses base decisions on economic pragmatism, not ideology. Good businesses also are leaders, not followers, and look for ways to demonstrate leadership to investors, customers and the public.


It’s no different for states. States create a business climate through the policies they adopt. States strengthen their business climate by basing decisions on what works. And, in Montana, there’s no question that renewable energy works.


Since adopting the 15 percent renewable standard, Montana has attracted nearly $1.6 billion in new investment in renewable energy. One company, NaturEner, alone has invested over $800 million in Montana wind projects. The state now boasts more than 645 megawatts of installed wind-power capacity. These investments have put some 1,500 Montanans to work and they have been on the upswing, with the amount of wind power capacity growing 67 percent in the past year. And there’s a lot of upside left. Montana is among the top states for wind energy potential.


Despite these solid results and the tremendous potential remaining to be tapped, the Legislature has advanced bills aimed at weakening or gutting the renewable-energy standard and discouraging renewable-energy development.


For example, Senate Bill 31 would allow power from existing hydroelectric dams to satisfy the 15 percent standard. SB 45 would retroactively apply incentives intended to promote new energy development to hydroelectric dam work already completed.

 

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