A White House-commissioned review of the Department of Energy’s embattled loan program estimates that taxpayers are at risk of losing $2.7 billion on the government investment initiative, and that is not even counting the $567 million that is likely already lost because of the recent bankruptcies of Solyndra and an energy storage company. The Obama administration was quick to note today that the loan program was always designed to provide funding for promising projects that could not otherwise get funding from the private sector. Even $3 billion in losses would wind up far below the $10 billion that Congress set aside to cover potential risks when it established the green energy loan initiative. It is also well under the $5 billion risk assessment that DOE originally made for its $23.8 billion portfolio.
Alliant Energy, which owns Interstate Power & Light in Iowa, said Friday it will sell its moneylosing renewable energy business, RMT, after the non-regulated subsidiary reported “an erosion of margins” on its Midwestern wind farms and a loss on a solar project in New Jersey. Madison, Wis.-based Alliant said “recent economic conditions have constrained financial markets and lowered funding for large capital projects in the renewable energy services market. With fewer renewable energy projects receiving funding, the competition for those projects has intensified and profit margins have been negatively impacted.”
All indications suggest President Obama will continue forging ahead into the political minefield of hefty clean energy investments when he rolls out his fiscal 2013 spending wish list for the Energy Department and other federal agencies later this morning. Despite an ongoing scandal surrounding a DOE loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt solar firm Solyndra and a lackluster response from Congress over his previous efforts to boost clean energy spending, Obama has hinted he is not slacking off in his push to ramp up federal investment in the sector.
Led by China and the United States, the global wind market grew 6 percent last year, according to a new report. The wind industry installed more than 41,000 megawatts of new power in 2011, pushing the worldwide total up 21 percent to 238,000 MW by year’s end, the Global Wind Energy Council reported in annual market statistics. China installed 18,000 MW of new capacity, roughly triple the amount of the United States.
Last month was the fourth warmest January in 118 years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has posted a striking series of maps on last month’s temperatures and precipitation in the United States. (Explore the links highlighting differences among regions, states and cities.) The average temperature in January was 36.3 degrees Fahrenheit — 5.5 degrees warmer than the average for the 20th century.
Wind energy producers will have to start downsizing operations and laying off workers if Congress does not move swiftly to extend the production tax credit for wind energy, CEOs of wind energy companies said yesterday.
Tagging the extension onto the payroll tax bill, which renews a tax cut set to expire at the end of February, may be “effectively the last chance” to put that extension through in the first quarter of 2012, they said.
Iowa’s entire congressional delegation is urging Hill leadership to renew a wind energy tax credit that is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, showing growing bipartisan support for a fast-growing industry in the windy country of the Great Plains. The four Democrats and three Republicans fired off a letter yesterday saying that Congress should add language extending the production tax credit (PTC) to an extension of the payroll tax cut that Republican leadership is now negotiating with top-ranking Democrats and the White House.
Last year I wrote about sudden surges in renewable energy that set up a conflict between wind producers in the Pacific Northwest and the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that runs hydroelectric dams and the regional grid. When unseasonable storms created a simultaneous surplus of wind and water, Bonneville gave free power away but still had to deal with an oversupply that could overwhelm the grid. But at a two-day National Electricity Forum sponsored by the Energy Department and others, the federal energy secretary, Steven Chu, on Wednesday proposed a different set of solutions to the problem, which is likely to emerge elsewhere as installations of renewable energy expand and systems have to cope with surges or deficits of power they cannot predict.
A new study released Wednesday by Gov. Bev Perdue said North Carolina had the largest offshore wind resource on the East Coast and that the state should work with industry to develop the wind energy industry. The 15-member panel said wind energy along North Carolina’s coast and sounds offered significant opportunities for renewable energy and for job creation.
The White House’s top environmental adviser said today that Republicans will be disappointed if they hope the hubbub over the failed solar equipment manufacturer Solyndra will translate into drastic new cuts in clean energy investments in President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal. “The president is going to articulate his priorities next week, and as you heard in the State of the Union, he spent a lot of time talking about energy,” Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley said today after a brief appearance at an environmental justice event for students that took place on Capitol Hill.