Once a booming industry, U.S. wind power saw its growth plummet 92% last year as it wrestled with tax uncertainties and cheap natural gas. The industry is still growing but not nearly as fast, says a report Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association. It added a record 13,131 megawatts of power in 2012 but that fell to only 1,087 MW last year — the lowest level since 2004. One reason was investors’ uncertainty that Congress would renew a federal wind tax subsidy. “People didn’t know it would be passed … so they weren’t creating new projects” early last year, says AWEA’s president Tom Kiernan. He says it takes about nine months to plan a wind farm, so the one-year extension in January 2013 didn’t trigger a flurry of new wind farm construction until the second half of 2013.
The developer of a proposed 25-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey yesterday appealed a state agency’s decision to reject the project. Cape May, N.J.-based Fishermen’s Energy asked the state’s Board of Public Utilities to revisit what would be the first wind project built in state waters, about 3 miles from Atlantic City. The company in a statement to the board called its decision last month “palpably incorrect” because the agency used a per-unit electricity cost that may have been wrong.
Can science tell us how much ethical responsibility different countries bear for combating climate change? It’s going to try. According to a draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, ethics takes a front-and-center role in a forum traditionally reserved for exploring scientific consensus.
Declaring that “electricity is under attack in our country,” FirstEnergy Corp. President and CEO Anthony Alexander yesterday skewered state and federal energy policies that he described as “designed to achieve a social agenda.” Speaking before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy in Washington, D.C., Alexander warned that “energy efficiency, renewable power, distributed generation, microgrids, rooftop solar and demand reduction” are examples of what “sounds good” but really are “untested policies” that will threaten grid reliability and raise electricity prices.
Six months after announcing that Harvard University would not divest its endowment’s holdings from the fossil fuel industry, its president, Drew Faust, unveiled several new initiatives Monday to strengthen the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability and renewable energy. Harvard says its endowment will be the first of a US university to sign on to a United Nations-supported organization, Principles for Responsible Investment. The principles do not require Harvard to sell specific funds, but rather provide the university’s fund managers with a method for considering environmental and social factors, from water scarcity to human rights.
Legislation intended to quickly add muscle into Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions reduction program is drawing fire from both power producers and clean energy advocates because it would lock the state into long-term hydropower contracts with Canadian utilities and hinder the state’s homegrown clean energy sector. Massachusetts’ H. 3968, co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mark Cusack and Sen. Barry Finegold, would require that by the end of 2014 all of the commonwealth’s electricity distributors solicit proposals for an estimated 2,400 megawatts of new generation from clean energy resources, including hydropower, solar and wind.
House Democrats are reaching for an old financing model to support new sources of energy.Modeled off a successful World War II-era program, a bill introduced yesterday would direct the Treasury Department to issue $50 billion of “clean energy victory bonds,” the proceeds of which would offset the extension of a handful of clean energy tax breaks. California Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui were the lead co-sponsors of the bill, which attracted 16 other Democratic co-sponsors.
Gov. Martin O’Malley says he still has misgivings about a bill to set a 13-month moratorium on the development of tall wind turbines within 56 miles of the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River base in southern Maryland. O’Malley wouldn’t say Monday if he would veto legislation that has been sent to his desk. But the governor, who is a strong supporter of wind energy, says, “I have yet to conclude that windmills are quite the threat to Naval air radar that those advocating for this ban have concluded.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is nudging the Defense Department to drop objections to a massive New Mexico-to-Arizona transmission line project near an Army missile testing range and to work with the Interior Department to devise a plan to get the power line built.
In its just-released annual report on global clean energy investment, the Pew Charitable Trusts finds an 11 percent drop in investments in 2013. What contributed to the global decline, and what are the expectations for activity in the clean energy sector moving forward? During today’s OnPoint, Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program, discusses the impact of policy uncertainty in the United States and Europe. She also weighs in on how the natural gas boom could be affecting clean energy investments.