Looking forward, the industry hopes to persuade Congress to reinstate the PTC sometime this year, likely along with a package of “tax extenders” that would replace dozens of other expired, temporary tax credits. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is expected to soon become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said he would like to move quickly on such a package, but House Republicans have shown little such enthusiasm. AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said that while the path forward and legislative vehicle for extending the tax credits was not concrete yet, he and other leaders of renewable groups plan to meet with Wyden in the next week or so and ideally would like the PTC extended by midyear if not sooner.
President Obama last night nominated Norman Bay, director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Enforcement, to serve as the agency’s next chairman. Bay, a former U.S. attorney from New Mexico with a lengthy career overseeing high-profile legal cases, has overseen stepped-up FERC investigations into Wall Street giants including Deutsche Bank, Barclays and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which last year was fined a record $410 million for gaming the energy markets.
The Ohio Air National Guard has decided to formally withdraw plans to build a wind turbine along the shores of Lake Erie in one of the largest bird migration corridors in North America after a national bird conservation group threatened to sue. A top Air Force official informed lawyers representing the American Bird Conservancy and the Oak Harbor, Ohio-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory that the National Guard is scrapping plans to build the wind turbine at its Camp Perry facility near Port Clinton in northern Ohio.
The solar industry also holds an edge in the number of Americans it employs and has been adding workers at a breakneck pace, making it a ripe candidate to underscore the president’s theme of finding ways to boost the economy. A Solar Foundation report released last week showed employment in the industry grew 20 percent last year to more than 140,000 workers throughout the United States. The wind industry, by comparison, employs about 80,000 Americans, according to industry estimates. In terms of installed electric capacity, though, wind is a clear leader, with more than 60,000 megawatts on the grid. Solar has about 13,000 MW installed, about what wind added in 2012.
The White House’s environmental policy shop is on the verge of a leadership vacuum. Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley is stepping down in February. Her former deputy Gary Guzy has already left the building. That leaves the office with no Senate-confirmed leaders, and the White House has been mum about nominations to fill their spots, or even news about who’ll run the show in the meantime.
Obama vows action on energy, climate, higher wages and manufacturing hubs — with or without Congress
President Obama had a clear message for Congress last night: I don’t need you.
In touting his “all of the above” energy strategy, the president slighted 18 environmental groups, including some of the largest in the nation, which asked him less than two weeks ago to strike that phrase from his vocabulary. At the same time, he did little to quiet his critics in the Republican Party and segments of the energy industry who say the words are meaningless.
When it comes to energy, Obama’s annual speeches have gotten increasingly pugnacious toward the deeply divided legislative branch, which has failed to act on measures with broad bipartisan support — and has even struggled to keep the government’s doors open, thanks to bitter budget disputes. Obama set the new tone last year. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said in his last State of the Union speech, directing his Cabinet to circumvent the lawmakers seated around him on the House floor.
Two states best known for their development of wind power and biofuels — Iowa and Minnesota — have emerged as battlegrounds in the national debate over whether solar power can claim a larger share of electricity markets traditionally dominated by large, rate-based utilities. In separate but similar cases, two renewable energy firms — Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque, Iowa, and Geronimo Energy of Edina, Minn. — are asking authorities to allow for the expansion of solar energy in their respective states over objections from utilities that have their own ideas about how electricity markets should work.
Ron Binz, a former controversial Obama nominee to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is joining the Brookings Institution as a senior fellow. Binz, a former Colorado regulator, is joining Brookings’ Energy Security Initiative (ESI) to research and publish papers.