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Renewable energy production backed by Western Governors

Set goal to increase region's production of renewable energy, ranging from solar and wind power to biomass and geothermal projects. Approve Western goal to pro

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Western governors agreed Tuesday to a long-term goal of increasing the region's production of renewable energy, ranging from solar and wind power to biomass and geothermal projects.

The governors, wrapping up a three-day meeting of the Western Governors' Association (WGA), approved a resolution that establishes a goal in the West of producing 30,000 megawatts of so-called clean energy by 2015 and improving the efficiency of energy usage by 20 percent by 2020.

About 800 households can be served by one megawatt of electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"The time has come to effectively increase the use of the West's vast renewable resources while we create cleaner technologies for using coal and other traditional resources," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the outgoing chairman of the WGA.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who was elected as the association's chairman for the next year, said it will be left to individual states and governors to implement policies and projects to meet the energy production goals.

"Many of our states are already aggressively moving toward more renewable energy resources," Owens said.

In New Mexico, for example, a wind farm opened last year that can produce up to 200 megawatts of electricity.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a former utility and banking executive, described the 30,000 megawatt production goal as "extremely aggressive."

He cautioned that developing greater renewable energy resources will take time and will require large amounts of financing, which can be difficult to attract.

"The average person... thinks, 'Why don't we just move to alternative fuels.' It sounds simple. It looks simple. But it's long-term and it's costly," said Guinn.