National energy standard


The Obama Administration and Congress need to enact an ambitious, practical energy policy. They can start with a national standard for renewable energy.

Many states, including Ohio and Michigan, have laws that require utilities to invest more in wind, solar, and biomass energy and other forms of renewable power. The laws are getting results, yet their competing rules and incentives create a tug of war among states for investors.

A federal standard would help level the playing field among states, give investors greater market certainty, and create jobs. Renewable energy requires a long-term commitment to entice developers to create wind farms and solar projects, and manufacturers to build parts for them.

The number of U.S. solar installations has nearly doubled each year since 2009. Wind power is the nation’s fastest-growing form of energy. The United States attracted a record $48.1 billion in private clean-energy investment in 2011.

Yet a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts suggests America needs to catch up with European and Asian countries in investing in clean energy. Germany, Italy, and China invest more in solar power; China leads the United States in wind-energy investment.

The United States is expected to invest $269 billion in clean-energy resources between 2012 and 2018. That’s about one-seventh of the anticipated global investment during that period. America has been a world leader in clean-energy technologies, but it risks falling behind.

In addition to approving a national renewable-energy standard, Congress should expand production tax credits for wind and solar projects. It should make a greater commitment to research and development, which could help places such as the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University promote innovation in green energy.

Meanwhile, Ohio lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich must maintain the state law that requires utilities that operate here to get at least 12.5 percent of their power from clean-energy sources by 2025. Columbus should resist efforts to do away with the law’s energy-efficiency requirement. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio can serve ratepayers well by not granting waivers from the requirement.

The Obama Administration supports more natural-gas exploration for electricity production. Natural gas is cleaner than coal-fired power, but not enough. It is also a fossil fuel that ultimately will be depleted by such extraction practices as hydraulic fracturing. Greater investment in renewable energy would give the nation greater energy security.

The nation needs a stronger commitment to renewable-energy research and manufacturing. A national standard is the place to start.