Ranking House Energy and Commerce Democrat Henry Waxman today said a series of House GOP hearings on grid reliability reflect the deep “confusion” inside the Republican Party over climate change and represent a smoke screen for attacking renewables. Republicans on the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, the Californian said, can’t seem to decide whether they like cheap gas or see it as a threat to the coal industry. They also seem unsure whether they should celebrate the country’s reduced carbon emissions or avoid the issue altogether, Waxman said.
Clean energy advocates and former chairmen of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today unveiled a report that found doubling wind power in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic could lower the regions’ electricity prices but avoided the prickly question of who pays for those projects. Doubling wind power in the footprint of PJM Interconnection, a grid operator that oversees the electric grid in 13 states and Washington, D.C. — would lower greenhouse gas emissions and save the region almost $7 billion annually by 2026, according to the study from Synapse Energy Economics that was commissioned by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.
Blessed with some breathing room, the wind industry is taking a step back from last year’s aggressive lobbying push, which ended with a renewal of its lucrative tax credit, to chart a path away from the boom-and-bust cycle that has been inherent in its heavy reliance on government support, industry leaders said this week during a conference here. With the production tax credit effectively in place to support wind farm development at least through early 2015, the industry is brainstorming on how to get through the next five to six years, which developers and manufacturers say they need before they can compete — subsidy-free — with natural gas and other forms of electricity generation. At the same time, attention is focusing more heavily on the states, where mandates that utilities purchase renewable energy have increasingly come under attack from Republicans and conservative activists.
Gov. Terry Branstad announced Wednesday that MidAmerican Energy will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa for wind energy projects that will be the biggest single economic investment ever in the state. “As wind energy goes, so does Iowa’s economy,” said Branstad, who spoke enthusiastically about the plans. He added, “Remember, once they make this investment it will be here for the next 40 or 50 years.” MidAmerican officials said no sites have been selected yet, but they hinted the sites would be in northwest Iowa and south of Interstate Highway 80 in western Iowa.
Iowa’s largest energy company announced plans Wednesday to spend $1.9 billion to install hundreds of wind turbines by the end of 2015, marking what the governor described as the largest economic development project in the state’s history. Officials with Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy made the announcement at a Statehouse news conference with Gov. Terry Branstad, who noted that wind energy has been a selling point for high-tech firms looking to invest in Iowa. “Wind energy is an exploding field and we’re excited about it,” Branstad said. “As wind energy grows, so does the Iowa economy.”
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is expanding ongoing efforts to design and implement wind-energy forecasting systems that should allow utilities to better integrate wind-generated electricity onto the power grid. NCAR today announced it is expanding an existing partnership with Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy to add sophisticated weather forecasting systems aimed at calculating times of peak wind energy and, perhaps as important, providing utilities advance notice of when winds are expected to be low.
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio yesterday said he has the support of key Democrats to succeed Rep. Ed Markey as the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee if the Massachusetts lawmaker wins his race for a Senate seat next month
Coming off one of the most tumultuous years in its recent history, the U.S. wind power industry has emerged stronger and more confident of its future, industry leaders gathered here for the American Wind Energy Association’s national conference said yesterday. But for wind power to solidify its standing in a highly competitive energy market, it must shift its focus from federal tax policies to seek a broader agenda that plays to wind energy’s inherent strengths while fighting back against those who argue that wind cannot compete with fossil fuels for electricity generation.
House Republicans this week are poised to step into several prickly debates over how the grid and power prices are being affected by an increasing amount of renewables that require natural gas backup, the effect of production tax credits for wind and looming U.S. EPA rules.
Wind industry leaders are urging their members to spend more time lobbying and give more money to political campaigns as they seek to craft a long-term strategy to win supportive policies at the federal, state and local level and defend against their well-funded critics. The American Wind Energy Association opened its annual conference here with an appeal for industry officials to get more involved in the political process as the organization’s new CEO and board chairman acknowledged that they had a lot of work ahead to design a plan to allow for stable growth for years to come.