The wind industry renewed its call today for Congress to quickly extend a lucrative tax credit, pointing to new data that show a spike in development in 2011. The pressure comes as lawmakers begin negotiations to extend the Social Security payroll tax holiday — a package supporters see as a potential vehicle for the production tax credit. Set to expire at the end of this year, the credit grants companies that produce electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and certain plants a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for the first 10 years of the facility’s operation.
Failing to extend the federal production tax credit, a financial mechanism meant to leverage renewable energy industries, would be a disaster for wind energy producers, industry leaders said Tuesday. Moreover, because of the relatively long business cycle required to secure permits, order materials and manufacture components used to build wind turbines, it is imperative that Congress act immediately, and not in the eleventh hour before the credit expires, they said.
Assisted by technological innovation and years of subsidies, the cost of wind and solar power has fallen sharply — so much so that the two industries say that they can sometimes deliver cleaner electricity at prices competitive with power made from fossil fuels. At the same time, wind and solar companies are telling Congress that they cannot be truly competitive and keep creating jobs without a few more years of government support.
The nation’s second largest developer of wind projects, Iberdrola Renewables Inc., laid off 50 workers this week, placing some of the blame on the federal government for the move.
The petitioners in a pair of ongoing federal cases involving imported Chinese renewable energy products today cheered the tough stance President Obama took on unfair Chinese trade practices during his State of the Union address last night. “I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules,” Obama said last night. “We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration — and it’s made a difference.”
Warren Buffett’s appetite for homegrown renewable energy continues to expand as his MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. announced it will purchase yet another wind-power project in the Corn Belt, its fourth major acquisition this month. MidAmerican’s planned purchase of the 81-megawatt Bishop Hill II wind project in Henry County, Ill., pushes the company’s January wind power acquisitions to nearly 500 megawatts and further solidifies the firm’s No. 1 ranking in wind power ownership among the nation’s regulated utilities.
In his final State of the Union address before the 2012 election, President Obama did not shy away from some of the same energy and environmental issues that Republicans have said would be among his greatest weaknesses this fall. Obama referenced both his stalled climate change initiative and the bankrupt Solyndra solar energy company last night while chiding Congress for inaction on a host of energy issues. And while he did not directly engage on the controversial Canadian Keystone XL oil pipeline that his administration has held up, the president sought to focus the energy debate on how he plans to make better use of American energy resources.
President Obama confronted a deeply divided and sluggish Congress last night and pledged to increase clean energy development on public lands. “The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change,” Obama said during his State of the Union address. “But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.”
As part of his plan for a sustainable economy based on fair play, President Obama is repeating his call for Congress to scrap subsidies on the oil industry. During his State of the Union address last night, Obama likened tax incentives for big energy companies to millionaires who don’t pay their fair share.
Coal will remain the dominant fuel for U.S. electricity production through 2035, but its share of power generation will continue to drop significantly, the Energy Information Administration said today.