More than two years after Wisconsin completed a bipartisan process to establish statewide standards for siting wind turbines, development remains sluggish amid continuing political pushback. In 2012, a year that saw a nationwide surge in wind farm installations as developers rushed to beat expiring tax credits, Wisconsin added only 18 megawatts of capacity. By comparison, Michigan and Ohio, with much lower wind potential, had already installed 138 MW and 308 MW in just the first three quarters.
A recent report on duplicative federal programs supporting the wind industry did not reach any conclusion on which, if any, of those programs wasted the government’s money — and more research is needed to answer that question for wind along with numerous other federal programs that support different energy sectors, the author of the report told a House hearing yesterday. The Government Accountability Office last month studied a variety of incentives available to the wind industry and found that some programs overlap, allowing companies to “double dip” and benefit from several programs at once. But the report did not conclude that such overlap was necessarily wasteful.
The Colorado Senate — over the strong objections of rural Republican lawmakers — passed a bill Monday increasing the amount of renewable energy that rural electricity cooperatives must use. The bill, SB-252, requires that 25 percent of the co-ops’ electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, up from the 10 percent standard set in 2007.
John Norris spent more than three decades running high-profile political campaigns in his home state of Iowa — and once ran for Congress himself. But these days, as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, he’s more interested in the wonky world of transmission and pipeline policy than maneuvering tricky political battlefields.
The Collegiate Wind Competition is a forum for undergraduate college students of multiple disciplines to investigate innovative wind energy concepts; gain experience designing, building, and testing a wind turbine to perform according to a customized market data-derived business plan; and increase their knowledge of wind industry barriers. NREL is facilitating the inaugural competition, which will take place in spring 2014.
A coalition of conservative groups is using today’s tax-filing deadline to continue its campaign against a key wind industry tax credit. The American Energy Alliance, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks and other groups sent a letter today to 21 governors whose states do not have renewable portfolio standards to urge them to lobby against an extension of the national wind production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year. The groups argue that the credit amounts to a subsidy for states with renewable energy requirements, paid for by taxpayers in states without such requirements.
Wind and other eligible renewable energy developers will be able to claim the production tax credit as long as they spend at least 5 percent of a project’s costs by the end of this year, the Internal Revenue Service said today in eagerly anticipated guidelines. The document clarifies an expansion of the PTC’s eligibility that Congress enacted in January, as it extended the credit through the end of this year for wind. Rather than needing to have facilities in service before the credit expires, developers have to commence construction by Dec. 31 to claim the 2.3-cents-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy.
A central fixture in keeping Congress running is now relying 100 percent on wind energy. Union Station in Washington, D.C., has signed a three-year contract with Herndon, Va.-based Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) to fulfill all its electricity needs from wind farms based around the region, the company announced this week.
Growing concern over duplication of federal programs to aid wind energy development will receive more attention this week in the House. A hearing tomorrow will consider the findings of a recent Government Accountability Office report on various overlapping federal programs to benefit the industry (Greenwire, March 28). The Republican-requested report has bolstered the efforts of some GOP lawmakers and outside conservative groups to end the production tax credit, the industry’s main support mechanism, and otherwise dial back the extent to which the government subsidizes clean energy development.
A proposal to allow renewable energy developers to take advantage of a tax structure that has long been popular among fossil fuel companies is gaining traction among lawmakers tasked with overhauling the tax code. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who is leading a working group examining energy tax provisions, praised the idea of opening master limited partnerships (MLPs) to renewable energy companies. The structures have been popular among oil and gas, pipeline and coal companies as a way to attract investors, but current law does not allow renewable companies like wind and solar developers to use them.