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Global electrical energy sustainability, environmental impact of generation and usage, and the reliance on finite energy resources be one of the biggest challenges for engineers and scientists during the 21st century and beyond. Relying heavily on oil and petroleum energy sources located in a handful of politically unstable nations has caused people to reevaluate the importance of energy on world security. Nuclear energy, while becoming increasingly important worldwide, is still controversial in the United States. Recent happening in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami has caused further damage to the potential growth of nuclear power. Concerns about climate change and global warming has threatened to result in increased taxes or caps on carbon emission which can only increase the cost of providing electricity using fossil fuels. The challenges of providing the affordable, clean and reliable electricity that industry and mankind will need in the future begs the question: Where will the energy used by industry in the future come from, and at what cost?
In USA, the way electricity is generated, transmitted and utilized has been legislatively driven almost since it was first sold as a commodity. The creation of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the passage of the Public Utility Holding Act of 1935 (PUHCA) and Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) as well as the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEC), along with other energy legislation have resulted in the electrical energy climate and structure we see in the U.S. today where most of our electricity is generated using coal, nuclear, natural gas and hydroelectric (70% of renewable energy) sources.
A number of States have also produced legislation to promote the future use of electricity from renewable resources. The principal method they have used is the implementation of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which require a certain percentage of the energy used to be produced by renewable sources. Fig. 2 shows the states with Renewable Portfolio Standards as of July 2009. These numbers are also changing with time.
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