Under the shadow of global warming, three more states have taken steps to cut emissions from greenhouse gases. This summer, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina announced strict new minimum standards for the use of renewable power.

The so-called Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) requires utilities to obtain a minimum percentage of their total power supply from alternative sources, such as wind power, solar and biomass.

In August, the Illinois General Assembly approved the Rate Relief and Reform Package, which will include an RPS and an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS). The RPS will require Illinois utilities to supply 2 percent of the state’s power from renewable energy sources by the year 2008. The minimum requirement gradually increases to 10 percent in 2015 and to 25 percent in the year 2025.

The state’s EEPS will require utilities to reduce their delivery load by increasing amounts ranging from .2 percent of demand in 2008 up to 2 percent by 2015. It will effectively stop electricity load growth in the state by 2013.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission took steps to implement stricter RPS requirements, which were adopted by the state legislature earlier in the year. The legislature’s action extended the state’s existing RPS, adopted in 2004, from 10 percent to 15 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.

The commission adopted a rule that specifies how utilities must achieve those goals. Specifically, public utilities will be required to diversify their renewable energy portfolios so that they include at least 20 percent solar-generated power and 20 percent wind-generated power by 2011. Smaller percentages of power must come from biomass or geothermal and distributed generation.

Not to be outdone, North Carolina Gov.Mike Easley signed a bill in August that sets minimum requirements for renewable power. The North Carolina RPS requires investor-owned utilities to draw on renewable energy for 3 percent of their electricity supply in 2012. The requirement increases every three years, eventually reaching 12.5 percent in 2021. Like in New Mexico, the rule also specifies how much power must come from different sources. For example, solar power must represent .02 percent of the electricity sold by utilities in the year 2010 and two-tenths of a percent by 2018.  EC