Energy Efficiency

Cleveland Plain Dealer: FirstEnergy to End Energy Efficiency Programs

ELPC’s Robert Kelter spoke with JohnFunk of the Cleveland Plain Dealer about FirstEnergy’s plan to gut long running and successful energy efficiency programs.

This story is reposed from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and can be found at:

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2014/09/energy_efficiency_programs_wil.html

Energy efficiency programs will end for FirstEnergy customers

By John Funk, The Plain Dealer

AKRON, Ohio — FirstEnergy is abolishing most of its Ohio consumer and business energy efficiency programs by the end of the year — on the grounds that the elimination will lower monthly electric bills.

The company will continue similar programs in Pennsylvania and in other states where FirstEnergy also operates local power companies, but where lawmakers have not changed state laws to create an opportunity to end efficiency subsidies.

In Ohio, where the Republican-controlled General Assembly did change the law, FirstEnergy will on Dec. 31 end consumer cash rebates for everything from LED light bulbs to ceiling fans, from household appliances to whole house air conditioning, from heat pumps to geothermal heating.

Also going away are discounted household energy audits and cash rebates to homebuilders and buyers of very high-efficiency homes. Parallel programs for businesses are also disappearing.

A company spokeswoman explained Wednesday that since customers have been paying for those subsidized programs through increases in rates, monthly bills would be lower when the programs are eliminated.

Spokeswoman Diane Francis said the company had not calculated the extent of consumer savings when the programs are gone but that overall savings for FirstEnergy’s Ohio customers — including commercial and heavy industry — would be “tens of millions of dollars.”

But Tuesday, FirstEnergy’s top executive for rates and regulatory affairs, William Ridmann, said consumers on average are paying about $4.50 a month in extra charges to pay for the efficiency programs.

In the last five years the total cost of the efficiency programs, including programs to help heavy industry become more efficient and competitive, had led to about $1 billion in temporary charges, he said. Ridmann did not say how much the upgrades had saved customers in power costs.

They want to sell more higher-priced electricity and are throwing their customers under the bus,” Robert Kelter, Environmental Law & Policy Center.
FirstEnergy told a happier customer story in reports to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2012 comparing the anticipated cost of the programs over the coming three years to the savings created by reducing the amount of power purchased.

And in individual attachments for each of its Ohio companies accompanying that overall report, the company said it had achieved a balance between costs and anticipated savings.

“The Company believes that it has prepared an EE&PDR (energy efficiency & peak demand reduction) strategy as reflected in this three year Plan that balances near-term energy savings opportunities among all rate classes with longer-term programs that continue to create jobs and build capacity for delivering greater energy and demand reduction impacts in the future,” those introductory remarks noted.

A 2013 report to the PUCO looking back at costs and benefits for that year and 2012 showed generally that for every $1 spent on energy efficiency, customers had saved more than $2 in power costs.

The company’s conclusion was based on a series of complicated calculations, a process that FirstEnergy’s spokeswoman Francis on Thursday said may not have been the most accurate way of figuring, though the company has not amended the reports to say otherwise.

Francis pointed to a footnote in the reports stating that the calculations did not take into account customers who did not apply for the rebates, and said only 7 percent of its residential customers participated.

Still, that two-to-one assertion caught the eye of energy efficiency advocates and environmental groups earlier this year when they were opposing the passage of legislation backed by FirstEnergy that weakened the state’s efficiency standards and opened the door to what the company is doing now.

“The facts don’t bear this out,” said Samantha Williams, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, of FirstEnergy’s current claim that the programs are a financial burden to customers.

“FirstEnergy’s own analysis shows that efficiency works and saves customers two-to-one on their investment,” she said, referring to the series of complicated calculations in the reports, calculations used by all utilities.

As for the issue in the footnote, Williams said the company’s argument ignores the system-wide benefit, namely that efficiency suppresses overall demand, lowering power prices.

“Actually, what’s best for customers is keeping the efficiency programs and helping them save money,” she said, adding that FirstEnergy is the only Ohio utility ending the programs.

Robert Kelter, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, said FirstEnergy has steadily resisted creating the programs. Staffs from the ELPC and the NRDC meet regularly with employees from each Ohio utility to suggest efficiency programs, he said.

The company then files details of its programs with the PUCO under protective order, preventing others from revealing details.

“It’s clear from this filing that they want their unregulated affiliate (FirstEnergy Solutions) to be able to sell more higher-priced electricity and are throwing their customers under the bus,” said Kelter.

“They are cutting out 50 to 75 percent of all their efficiency programs. Demand will not continue to fall as it has. There is no question that prices will go up and that shareholder profits will go up.”

Kelter was referring in part to industrial customers.

FirstEnergy notes in its amended plans filed Wednesday with the PUCO that its large industrial customers will no longer have to participate at all in the utility’s efficiency programs but instead will have to run their own programs and report directly to the state. That is another provision of the recent changes in state law. Industry has chaffed at having to abide by state-mandated efficiency rules and pay hefty extra charges. And as they leave, FirstEnergy will no longer have to count the power they use or save in its calculations.

FirstEnergy’s move to scrap the programs comes less than two weeks after a bill imposing a two-year freeze on Ohio’s energy efficiency standards became law.

The language in that legislation — Senate Bill 310 — is what FirstEnergy is relying on to amend its programs. While the entire bill is temporary — the freeze is for only two years — FirstEnergy’s changes to its efficiency programs are permitted to be permanent. And that may lead other utilities to follow FirstEnergy.

“FirstEnergy is playing its traditional role of driving a train through the loopholes ahead of all other utilities, said Mark Shanahan, energy adviser to former Gov. Ted Strickland. “And doing it under the guise of helping customers.”

Midwest Energy News: Advocates say Wisconsin solar fight could spill into other states

A closely watched battle over utility policy in Wisconsin could determine the fate of solar development throughout the region, advocates say.

The dispute is over three major rate cases recently filed by We Energies,Madison Gas & Electric andWisconsin Public Service Corporation. The three utilities cover much of the eastern half of the state as well as its largest cities.

If the state Public Service Commission (PSC) approves the cases, solar experts say there will be a massive chill over solar development in these utilities’ service territories. And they expect other utilities in Wisconsin and beyond will file similar requests.

All three cases would significantly restructure the way residential and business customers are charged for electricity, so that all customers pay a higher fixed amount each month while the variable charges based on electricity use are reduced.

This creates an inherent disincentive to reduce energy use – whether through installing solar panels or increasing energy efficiency. RENEW Wisconsin program and policy director Michael Vickerman described it as a “reverse Robin Hood” move that shifts the burden of paying for electricity from large energy consumers to small consumers.

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ELPC to Quadrennial Energy Review: North Dakota’s More than Oil and Natural Gas!

Mindi-QuadEnergyReview

 

For Immediate Release
August 8, 2014
Contact: David Jakubiak, ELPC
312-795-3713, djakubiak@elpc.org

Bismarck, ND – North Dakota’s oil-fueled economic boom should not stifle development of a diverse energy mix, mask the losses of wasteful resource flaring, or place North Dakota’s unique special places at risk, the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Mindi Schmitz told state, federal and business leaders Friday at the state’s Quadrennial Energy Review.

“This boom is primarily focused on Bakken oil, but there are other energy development opportunities here to diversify the state’s energy mix and broaden the economic expansion,” said Schmitz, North Dakota governmental relations specialist with ELPC.

The Review held at Bismarck State College was attended by a who’s who of federal, state and business leaders from the energy and transportation sector. Gov. Jack Dalrymple was joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer. Others on hand included Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF; and Robert Steede, director of Enbridge North Dakota.

Schmitz noted that North Dakota has the sixth most wind resource in the nation, yet ranks 11th in wind energy production. “There is a substantial and costly gap between the potential represented in the size of the resource and the actual represented by on-the-ground wind development.”

Additionally, she called for continued efforts to end the wasteful venting and flaring of North Dakota’s natural gas resource. While steps have been made, she said, about 1/3rd of the natural gas extracted in the state is still flared. As the number of wells grow,  the amount of gas rises as well.

“In May 2014 alone, operators flared nearly 10 billion cubic feet of gas. That’s enough to heat around 100,000 average homes for a year,” she said.

Flaring, Schmitz said, is taking money out of the pockets of landowners and is costing the local, state and federal government millions in lost tax revenue. “In May 2013, gas flaring cost the state about $3.6 million in lost tax revenue per day.”

Flaring also pollutes, she said, producing huge amounts of harmful, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds; greenhouse gas pollution, including carbon dioxide and methane.

Of particular concern, Schmitz argued are special places on North Dakota that are irreplaceable.

“Flames from flaring obscure what were once pristine, starry night skies and pollution from flaring harms the park’s plants and animals,” she said. “We should not be fracking and flaring within view of Teddy Roosevelt National Park or any other special place.”

Schmitz offered 5 recommendations to reduce risks posed by oil developemt:

  • Adopt standards to minimize flaring from oil/mixed oil-and-gas wells;
  • Promulgate requirements to minimize methane leakage from wells, pipes and associated gas production and transport equipment;
  • Pass more stringent rules for pipelines, railcars and trucks to minimize oil/wastewater spills, and strictly enforce those rules;
  • Require that, where possible, fracking wastewater be recycled, and fund research to increase wastewater recycling; and
  • Bolster protections for special places under federal control, including Teddy Roosevelt National Park, the Dakota Grasslands, and other sites with historical, archaeological and natural resource assets.

“We can have responsible energy development with immense benefits, and provide greater protection for North Dakota air, water and special places,” she said.

Learner: Exelon’s deal to acquire Integrys Energy raises anti-competitive concerns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2014
Contact: Jill Geiger
312-795-3703

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

Exelon’s announcement that it plans to buy Integrys Energy Services raises anti-competitive concerns for Northern Illinois consumers, according to the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Executive Director Howard Learner.

“We have serious questions about whether Exelon’s purchase of Integrys Energy Services will reduce competition in the Northern Illinois retail electricity market, leading to higher utility bills and fewer renewable energy opportunities for consumers.”

“Exelon is the parent company of both Commonwealth Edison and Constellation Energy, which compete for retail electric consumers with Integrys Energy Services in Northern Illinois. If combined, these companies appear to control more than half of the retail electricity market in Northern Illinois.  This market concentration could become even greater as First Energy has publicly stated that it is scaling back its retail electricity business.”

“One of the promises of deregulation in Illinois was a competitive retail electricity services market that would benefit consumers.  We’re concerned that this new acquisition by Exelon appears to reduce competition and increase the concentration of market power.  We urge the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Illinois Commerce Commission and other federal and state agencies to carefully investigate, review and determine the potential anti-competitive impacts of Exelon’s announced new acquisition of Integrys Energy Services.”

ELPC Hosts U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Clean Energy Business Roundtable

ELPC was honored to host U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a Clean Energy Business Roundtable today at our Chicago office. We were joined by 35 corporate clean energy and sustainability business leaders, including executives from Baxter Healthcare, Broadwind Energy, Clean Line Energy, E.ON Energy USA, Hecate Energy, Invenergy, Johnson Controls, Next Era Energy, Schneider Electric, SoCore Energy, VLV Development, Walgreens, Wangxiang, and West Monroe Partners.

Following my introduction, there was a lively discussion between Administrator McCarthy and business leaders on the investment and job opportunities spurred by the proposed Clean Power Plan. Administrator McCarthy summed up:

“We wanted the standards to be very flexible and wanted to show there are job growth opportunities here … The amount of money you save when you look at efficiency and renewables in a city is amazing and people really like it … If you can do it in one city, you can do it in every city. All I’m asking people to think about is what’s already been done in so many other places.”

ELPC and I look forward to working with you to advance strong carbon pollution reduction standards that can create jobs, spur technological innovation and engineering ingenuity, and improve our public health and environment. Solving climate change problems is the moral, economic, policy, political and technological challenge of our generation. Let’s work together to make a difference.

ABC7 Chicago: Illinois Officials Applaud New EPA Rule on Emissions

CHICAGO (WLS) –Illinois officials say the state is well-equipped to meet new power plant emissions goals. The Obama Administration unveiled a plan Monday to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent by the year 2030. It sets the first national limits on carbon dioxide and will further diminish the use of coal in electrical production.

The proposal sets off a complex process in which the 50 states will each determine how to meet customized targets set by the EPA and then submit those plans for approval.

“It is important that we take serious, comprehensive action to reduce carbon emissions,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, “so I look forward to reviewing the draft guidelines of the federal plan in detail and helping to develop a flexible and effective approach for Illinois.”

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Crain’s Chicago Business: The skinny on how Obama’s greenhouse rule affects Illinois

You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers on what’s in store in Illinois now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its long-awaited proposed rule for reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

Explain in brief what the Obama administration’s climate change rule is all about.

Frustrated by inaction by Congress, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is claiming the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulated carbon emissions by power plants. Today it issued a proposed rule, which calls on states to take the lead in reducing emissions from power generators within their borders and gives them flexibility in how to do it.

Are Illinois power plants a source of significant emissions?

Yes, indeed. Only five other states emitted more greenhouse gases from power plants than Illinois in 2012, according to EPA. And while the Obama administration is saying that the proposed rule requires a 30 percent reduction of carbon from the power sector by 2030 based on their emissions in 2005, the reductions don’t fall equally state by state. Illinois is being asked to cut its power-plant emissions by 33 percent from its 2012 emissions. Only two other Midwestern states, Wisconsin and Minnesota, are being asked to do more. Strangely, neighboring Indiana, which emits more greenhouse gases than far larger Illinois thanks to its heavy dependence on carbon-heavy coal, must cut its emissions by only 20 percent.

What’s the time frame for action?

EPA is on a tight time line. The proposed rule must be made final in a year. States have until 2016 to come up with their plans. That won’t stop Illinois from taking the issue on earlier, thanks mainly to the lobbying exertions of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., whose six nuclear plants in Illinois stand to benefit financially from quicker action. State legislative leaders have signaled that they will consider far-reaching legislation to comply with the regulations next spring.

Why is Illinois in such a rush to enact changes that are likely to raise its residents’ electric bills?

Exelon, which owns Commonwealth Edison Co., is one of the most influential companies in Illinois. It has claimed that three of its six nukes in Illinois are losing money, largely due to competition in western Illinois from close-by wind farms. The company sees compliance with EPA’s rule as a means to boost revenues at its in-state plants. It argues that compliance with the rule will be next to impossible for Illinois if even one of its nuclear plants close, since nukes are virtually carbon-free and account for nearly half of the electricity produced here.

Which direction are lawmakers leaning in addressing the situation?

Every direction. Last week the Illinois House passed two resolutions dealing with the then-expected EPA regulations. One, sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, effectively called on EPA and other state and federal agencies to do everything they could to promote retention of Exelon’s nukes. The other, introduced in January and tied to a state-by-state pro-coal effort by an organization tied to the Koch brothers, called on EPA to allow Illinois to take longer to comply with the rule and to meet less stringent standards if it desires in the interest of keeping coal-fired power plants open. “The House has passed two resolutions that point in two different directions that are hard to reconcile in a policy way,” says Howard Learner, executive direction of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which has battled coal plants for years.

Continue Reading this Article.

EPA Carbon Pollution Standards Offer Clear Path Forward

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

CHICAGO – Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, issued the following statement regarding the U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon pollution reduction standards issued on Monday:

“These carbon pollution reduction standards will drive technological innovation for a cleaner environment and protecting the public’s health.  Solving our climate change problems by cleaning up the energy sector is necessary to fulfill our moral obligation to our children and a better future,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Learner continued:  “The United State Supreme Court held that the U.S. EPA has both legal authority and responsibility under the Clean Air Act to set standards to reduce carbon pollution to safe levels. Now, it’s time for the engineers and technical specialists to develop cost-effective solutions and unleash innovative new clean energy technologies that can both repower our economy and achieve better environmental protection.”

“The Midwest, alone, is responsible for about five percent of global greenhouse gas pollution and states like Illinois and Iowa are positioned to lead with wind power, solar energy and energy efficiency development solutions that spur economic growth while reducing carbon pollution. We commend the Obama Administration for advancing these carbon pollution reduction standards on a clear path forward,” said Learner.

ELPC Legislative Report: “The Very Good, along with the Bad and the Ugly” in Illinois, Iowa and Ohio?

It’s been a long legislative slog for the effective, but weary, ELPC team. Here’s a quick update on solar victories achieved in Illinois and Iowa; our successes pushing back attempts to gut the Illinois natural gas fracking standards and to lock-in long-term taxpayer subsidies for the proposed Illiana Tollway boondoggle; and, sadly, some clean energy setbacks in Illinois and Ohio.

Thank you to all ELPC friends and supporters who reached out to legislators on important legislation and helped to make a positive difference in the results.

 

THE VERY GOOD:

Victory! Jumpstarting Illinois’ Solar Development:  ELPC led the charge to pass new legislation requiring the Illinois Power Agency to procure $30 million of solar-generated electricity through competitive auction processes. This will create good-paying jobs, expand Illinois’ solar industry and accelerate new rooftop solar installations. A boost for solar power in Illinois.

Victory! Expanding Iowa’s Solar Tax Credit: ELPC’s Iowa team and Iowa solar energy business partners succeeded in tripling Iowa’s solar tax credit program, which we originally passed in 2012. The $2.84 million of solar tax credits so far have leveraged $24 million in total investment and 600 solar projects installed on homes, barns and small businesses. The new legislation triples the annual tax credit availability from $1.5 million to $4.5 million, increases the individual project cap, and allows businesses to claim separate credits for each location.

Stopping Attempts to Gut Illinois Fracking Standards: ELPC and our environmental, public health and grassroots partners stopped an 11th hour attempt to weaken Illinois’ regulatory implementation of the fracking standards passed last year. Our in-depth analysis demonstrated that the proposed rollback would have limited public rights, cut back important air and water protections, and limited disclosure of chemical information to health professionals. Because of ELPC’s, NRDC’s, Sierra Club’s and other allies’ hard work and the many citizens who contacted their legislators, the fracking bill was not even called for a vote.

Preventing Illiana Tollway Subsidies: ELPC, Openlands and Illinois Environmental Council stopped a last-minute attempt to lock-in hundreds of millions of dollars of long-term taxpayer subsidies for the proposed Illiana “road to nowhere” boondoggle. The proposed Illiana Tollway would waste taxpayers’ money, adversely impact the special Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and harm sound regional planning. ELPC raised our detailed legal, financial, policy and ecological concerns about the proposed Illiana Tollway with Illinois legislators, and we mobilized opposition. The legislation was never called for a vote, but Illiana Tollway supporters will likely be back in November. ELPC will not rest following this important victory. There’s more to come.

 

THE BAD:

Shelving the Illinois RPS “Fix”:  ELPC and our wind energy business partners are frustrated that legislation to modernize the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard was not called for a vote even after we built considerable support. The Illinois RPS had transformed the state’s wind industry, driving Illinois to become the #4 wind energy producer in the nation. A conflict with another Illinois energy law “broke” the RPS funding mechanism, thereby impeding this driver of wind power development. ELPC’s proposed technical changes would get the Illinois RPS back on track and were negotiated with energy companies, legislators and the environmental community. ELPC will work hard to get important RPS fix legislation across the goal line in either the November veto session or early 2015.

Stalling Iowa High-Speed Passenger Rail Funding: The Iowa Legislature adjourned without appropriating needed matching funds for a highly-competitive federal passenger rail grant that Iowa and Illinois had won. So while Illinois moves ahead to bring passenger rail from Chicago to Moline in the Quad Cities, the state of Iowa has yet to commit to extending this modern, fast, comfortable and convenient passenger rail service from Moline to Iowa City and then Des Moines. ELPC is working with our Iowa business allies on other approaches to gain the necessary matching funds soon.

Illinois House Resolutions Promoting Exelon’s Nuclear Plants and Seeking to Weaken Carbon Pollution Reduction Standards: The Illinois House, on an unrecorded voice vote, passed a resolution that Exelon apparently hopes to use to gain public subsidies for some of its nuclear plants, which aren’t economically competitive in the electricity market. The resolution instructs several state agencies to write reports on various issues. The Illinois House passed a second resolution touting the benefits of the coal industry to the Illinois economy and asking the U.S. EPA to “allow Illinois and other states to set less stringent” carbon pollution reduction standards or longer compliance schedules. Neither resolution is binding, but they foreshadow the battle over the U.S. EPA’s draft carbon pollution reduction standards being issued on June 2nd. ELPC will be very engaged advocating sound strategies to reduce carbon pollution that causes  climate change problems.

 

THE UGLY:

Rolling Back Ohio Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Standards: The Ohio Legislature, at the urging of First Energy, handed consumers and environmentalists a defeat by putting a freeze on both renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements in order to study and determine their future. The utilities can continue their current energy efficiency programs if they choose to do so, but the Legislature further diluted the law by allowing utilities to count toward future energy reduction targets both the efficiency measures that customers take independently as well as measures that comply with federal appliance standards. On the renewable energy side, the Legislature also eliminated the provision that utilities purchase 50% of their renewables from in-state sources, thereby undercutting job creation and economic development in Ohio. That’s really ugly.

 

In short, with your help, ELPC is getting things done – but there are many challenges ahead. We are advancing environmental solutions that make good economic sense, we are holding our ground as powerful forces attempt to dismantle important environmental and public health achievements, and we are achieving progress on long-term challenges that require effective, steady and innovative advocacy.

North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy Board Members Include ELPC’s Mindi Schmitz

BISMARCK – Kim Christianson, Bismarck, has been re-elected President of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy (NDARE).

Christianson, retired, is the former manager of the Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the ND Department of Commerce and also served as Director of the Great Plains Energy Corridor at Bismarck State College.

“NDARE’s mission is to advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency in North Dakota.  Membership is open to all individuals, businesses, agencies and organizations that are involved with renewable energy and energy efficiency activities,” Christianson said.

North Dakota currently ranks 6th in the US for the percentage of electricity provided by wind power and 10th in the US for installed ethanol production capacity.

“Renewable energy projects and industries continue to grow in North Dakota,” said Christianson, noting that wind energy accounts for more than 15 percent of the electricity generated in the state.  “We will continue to advocate for state and federal policies and programs that advance clean energy development in North Dakota and across the nation.”

Other officers elected include Vice President Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, NDSU Ag and Biosystems Engineering, Fargo; and Secretary-Treasurer Warren Enyart, M-Power, LLC, Cooperstown.  Other NDARE Board members include Mindi Schmitz, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Jamestown; Emily McKay, Great Plains Energy Corridor, Bismarck; and newly-elected members Kayla Pulvermacher, North Dakota Farmers Union, Jamestown and Joann Rodenbiker, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, Cando.

NDARE has also retained Riverwind Consulting, West Fargo, to provide coordination services for the organization.  Riverwind Consulting’s President, Patrice Lahlum, will oversee day-to-day operations for the organization.

The North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy is a diverse membership-based advocacy organization that works with citizens, industry, government, interest groups, and educators to promote the development and use of renewable energy – including biofuels, biomass, and wind energy, as well as the widespread adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation practices.

For more information on NDARE, visit www.ndare.org.

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