A funny thing happened on the way to achieving ambitious renewable energy goals in Oklahoma: We're on track to exceed those goals.
So much for any lingering belief that renewable energy usage must be expanded with mandates rather than goals. Oklahoma took the goal route, which some would say is the path of least insistence. Other states have taken the mandate toll road.
Oklahoma's 2010 renewable energy goal was to reach 15 percent of capacity with renewables by 2015. It's 2013 and we're ahead of schedule. The mile marker was at 14.5 percent for 2011. We'll soon see how much farther down the road we got in 2012.
Eight states, including Oklahoma, set goals for renewables rather than mandates. The latter is the road more traveled: 29 states use the approach. We agree with the assessment that mandates amount to unneeded, artificial tinkering with the market and could be costly to consumers.
As noted by The Oklahoman's Paul Monies, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Mike Ming believes goals are preferable to mandates. Goals are more flexible. Flexibility is vital in the real world of energy supply and demand — as opposed to the rigidity of the artificial, academic standards favored by environmentalists.
Reaching the renewable destination sooner than expected is partly due to policy decisions such as government incentives for wind energy projects. The federal wind production tax credit almost died on Jan. 1 and could expire next New Year's Eve unless it's again renewed. Under the mandate approach, targeted renewables capacity is expected to be reached no matter what changes take place in policy, demand, economic growth, etc.
Had the state failed to reach its renewables goals, a new push for a mandate might arise, even here. But we haven't failed to meet those goals. Instead, we will likely increase them (to 20 percent) in the near future.