In the span of a couple of days last week, two similar renewable energy standard bills were introduced in the Senate, creating the impression of momentum behind a legislative proposal that had been largely left for dead at the federal level. But that brief surge of activity is not expected to improve the effectively nonexistent chance of such a policy being signed into law anytime soon. Rather, the effort is aimed at keeping alive an idea that has garnered bipartisan support in the past while supporters look for opportunities to bolster their arguments that expanding renewable energy production can create jobs and reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.
As Congress works on a tax reform package that could take months to complete, it’s looking increasingly likely that the production tax credit, a key wind industry lifeline, will expire shortly after the end of the year — at least temporarily. That expiration could hurt the wind industry, which saw construction of new wind projects grind to a virtual halt this year amid uncertainty over the subsidy. The production tax credit gives wind power owners a tax credit of 2.3 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told attendees at an offshore wind power conference on Tuesday that Rhode Island and Massachusetts are playing key roles in the development of the nascent industry.”The region is off to a great start,” she said. “The load is here. The people are here. The water is here. There is great, great potential.” No offshore wind farms have been built so far in the United States, but developers have targeted the Atlantic Ocean waters off Rhode Island and Massachusetts for installation of what could be the nation’s first offshore wind turbines.
President Obama ordered the creation today of a high-level task force aimed at bolstering the roles of state and local governments in national preparation for the impacts of climate change. Obama’s executive order launches a 24-member task force including the governors of seven states and Guam and 18 officials from local and tribal governments. The panel will identify opportunities for “removing barriers to resilient investments, modernizing federal grant and loan programs to better support local efforts, and developing the information and tools they need to prepare,” the White House said.
U.S. EPA’s acting air chief shot back Friday at critics who have accused the agency of avoiding coal country when gathering input on a forthcoming carbon dioxide rule for existing power plants. Janet McCabe wrote in a blog post that the agency is “conducting unprecedented and vigorous outreach and public engagement with key stakeholders and the general public” ahead of proposing its guidance in June to curb CO2 from today’s power fleet.
Wind energy installations are gaining momentum, but uncertainty looms over the future of a tax credit has helped the industry grow, according to a trade group. The American Wind Industry Association said Thursday utilities are taking advantage of the extension of the Production Tax Credit , which provides a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour benefit for electricity generated from utility-scale turbines during the first 10 years of a facility’s operation.
Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger urged Congress to work together toward solutions to curb climate change at an event to honor his leadership on the issue. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, told ClimateWire that he kept partisan politics separate from his work to lower greenhouse gas emissions. “I would never, ever make politics an issue when talking about environmental issues,” he said. “I hope that the United States, that the Republicans and Democrats would get together and come up with a really sound energy and environmental policy for the future.”
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced his first bill since joining the Senate earlier this year, aiming to require electric utilities to provide 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and to mandate reductions in energy use by both electric and natural gas utilities. The bill is the second effort to create a nationwide renewable energy standard (RES), a long-standing goal of environmentalists and clean energy advocates who hope to build on existing policies in more than two dozen states. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) earlier this week introduced a 25 percent by 2025 RES, although their bill did not include the separate efficiency standard in Markey’s
Activity in the industry started picking up this fall, with about 68 MW installed between July and September, and wind farms capable of generating more than 2,000 MW are now under construction, according to the American Wind Energy Association. But the group says the sharp slowdown early this year following a brief expiration of the production tax credit demonstrates the influence the federal government has over the success or failure of the wind industry. “Our No. 1 challenge is the uncertain, unpredictable policy environment in which the wind industry has to operate,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan told reporters today.
Wind is emerging as a prize for energy planners who see the howling gusts that arrive from the east as a way to offset the fresh limits imposed on hydropower. A string of wind-turbine parks is being erected in the nation’s windiest stretches, in what planners here see as the beginning of an extraordinary transformation. No one expects that wind will outpace dams as the main source of Brazil’s electricity. But the goals remain audacious for a country that projects an annual rise in electricity consumption of up to 5 percent in coming years.