The wind blowing off the coasts and lakeshores of the United States could power the country four times over, according to the Department of Energy. Yet to date, not a single offshore wind turbine has been built. The problem, in a word, is cost — technology and installation costs remain prohibitively high, and the bar is set to rise further with the expiration of the production tax credit for wind energy at the end of this year.
The Obama administration’s efforts to promote offshore wind in the Atlantic Ocean this week expanded south to North Carolina and Georgia, building on an existing program to tap winds in the mid-Atlantic. The Interior Department on Wednesday announced it is gauging industry’s interest in building wind farms in three areas totaling nearly 2,000 square miles off North Carolina.
The head of the American Wind Energy Association announced her resignation on Friday. Denise Bode will be leaving her post as president and CEO of AWEA on Dec. 31 to return to private practice as a tax attorney ahead of next year’s expected debate on Capitol Hill over comprehensive tax reform. “There is now a strong, bipartisan team of Congressional champions for the wind industry, and the all-important extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC),” Bode said in a statement. “When that is secured, all of my goals from the AWEA Board will have been accomplished. I am extremely proud to have led the AWEA staff as we worked together to get that job done, and, of course, grateful to the AWEA Board for the opportunity to serve this very promising industry.”
Anticipating a major tax reform effort next year, Denise Bode stepped down Friday as head of the American Wind Energy Association to work as a private lobbyist on tax issues next year. Bode, who has been chief executive of the wind industry group for four years, said “the opportunity to be just focused on advocacy in this kind of setting only comes once every 30 years.” She said she would stay with the group through the end of the year to try to secure an extension of the production tax credit for wind projects.
The wind industry last week proposed phasing out its prized tax credit in response to concerns from deficit hawks on Capitol Hill who say the government can no longer afford to subsidize wind turbine construction. But it is proving difficult to come up with a reliable estimate of how much the proposal would cost. Wind advocates say the production tax credit effectively costs taxpayers nothing because the $1 billion-plus per year that the government spends on the credit is more than recouped through federal, state and local taxes paid throughout the construction and operation of the wind farm. Wind detractors, meanwhile, are using some different math to put an inflated price tag on the industry’s proposal.
Areas afflicted by the U.S. drought slightly shrank this week, yet more than half the country remains parched. The U.S. Drought Monitor today said 51.8 percent of the country is in drought, down from last week’s 52.2 percent. Areas affected by severe and extreme drought inched upward, though the percentage of the country in exceptional drought remained the same.
“I think it’s just appalling that we’ve got 300,000 megawatts of wind energy projects all dressed up and ready to go to the prom that can’t find a connection,” Clinton told several hundred people gathered to mark a decade of wind energy development in the Midwest. “But it is a metaphor for the ongoing struggle for the future versus the present.” The former president’s more than hourlong address to a gala celebration for Wind on the Wires, a public policy nonprofit working to promote wind energy in the Midwest, touched on a broad spectrum of topics, from the looming “fiscal cliff” in Washington, to the realpolitik behind the 1991 Kyoto Protocol, to the meteorological factors that made Sandy a devastating superstorm.
The wind industry’s proposal to phase out its most prized federal incentive shook up the ongoing debate over how much support the government should provide to all sectors of the energy industry ahead of a tax reform debate in which a range of benefits are likely to face increased scrutiny from the growing ranks of congressional debt hawks. The American Wind Energy Association unveiled for the first time a proposal to phase out the production tax credit over a period of six years, fulfilling mounting requests from Capitol Hill to put such a plan on the table.
With their proposal not getting much traction this year, the sponsors of legislation that would open up renewable energy projects for private investors called on President Obama today to support their measure in the 113th Congress. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) say they are hopeful that with the president’s backing, legislation that would guarantee renewable energy firms the investment potential already afforded to traditional energy companies could garner broader support next year. The legislation was introduced over the summer, and it would primarily allow renewable energy outfits the use of what is known as master limited partnerships, or MLPs. Coons said the legislation would “level the playing field between traditional and energy businesses.”
The Department of Energy today announced recipients of up to $168 million over the next six years for demonstration projects aimed at advancing the offshore wind industry. DOE awarded funding to seven projects in six states. The projects will each receive $4 million to complete their planning and evaluation phases, and up to three will be selected to receive additional funding, subject to future congressional appropriation, with the goal of having advanced turbines operating by 2017.