Renewable Energy Association Leaders Outline Key Policies for Growth
November 14, 2008
In a joint news conference last week, the leaders of four renewable energy (RE) trade associations affirmed their support for the incoming Administration’s position that renewable energies are the key to reinvigorating the economy, and their belief that the industries they represent are ready to lead the recovery.
The news conference featured the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the executive directors of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and the National Hydropower Association (NHA). In their joint statement the Association heads declared that:
“The fast-growing renewable energy sector is poised to help lead the U.S. economic recovery with millions of new jobs and billions of private investment dollars. However, the new Administration and Congress need to take action to ensure that the renewable industries’ growth continues, given the current economic realities.”
The Association leaders outlined key policies required to empower RE industries to lead economic recovery. These include refining investment tax credit (ITC) policies to make them more effective for residential and commercial users, extending production tax credits (PTC) for RE generators, strengthening the CREBS bond program, and increasing federal procurement of RE.
Many of the policies identified by the Associations dovetail with President-elect Obama’s stated energy plans, including a national renewable portfolio standard of 10% by 2012 and 25% by 2025, a huge upgrade to the interstate electrical grid, $150 billion of federal investment in RE over 10 years, and a cap-and-trade regime.
Rhone Resch, president of SEIA, wants to see the newly-extended solar ITC made fully refundable, so that a buyer with insufficient tax burden to fully enjoy the credit can still receive the full allowance. He would also like to see the ITC made available to limited partnerships.
Randall Swisher, serving the last of his 19 years at AWEA, wants Congress to extend the PTC for wind projects for multiple years; in last month’s legislation it was extended for just one year, compared to eight years for solar ITCs. He noted that the Department of Energy has stated that wind could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs by 2030. “But,” he said, “federal policy adjustments are needed to help the industry perform well in the context of the current financial situation. More broadly, the nation needs an energy policy that places a high priority on renewable energy both to stimulate the economy and fight climate change.”
Linda Church Ciocci of the NHA and Karl Gawell of the GEA agreed with Resch and Swisher that, of all obstacles and problems facing the deployment of large-scale renewables, the lack of a national transmission backbone to connect areas of RE generation to load (i.e., population) centers is the single largest deterrent to implementing the full range of new energy policies they feel the country needs. The price tag for such an infrastructure would likely be in the order of $60 billion, but without it utility-scale projects might only proceed in a limited way.
The group of leaders noted that the upcoming lame duck session of Congress could contain a vehicle like a second economic stimulus package, which might be used for implementing such adjustments as a fully refundable ITC. It’s not at all clear, however, whether Congress and the current Administration would entertain anything in a Stimulus II package other than an extension of unemployment benefits and an auto industry bailout.