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Renewables Trades Converge on Capitol Hill to Address Climate Change Issues

May 9, 2008 - Wind Energy Weekly

Renewable energy trade association representatives gathered May 6th on Capitol Hill for a well-attended climate change briefing, where they presented a united message on renewable resources' potential to help combat global warming and the policies needed to deploy renewable energy at the levels necessary to achieve carbon reduction goals.

“There is no reason to wait for new technologies to begin to address climate change,” said AWEA www.awea.org Executive Director Randall Swisher. “Wind and other renewable technologies are solutions that are readily and widely available today.”

AWEA provided solid proof of wind power’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The nearly 17,000 MW of wind power cumulatively installed in the U.S. at the end of 2007 will prevent 28 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted this year, the trade association said. “If wind power grows to provide 20% of all electricity generation by 2030, it would displace 825 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the electric sector in 2030 alone,” said Swisher. “This is equivalent to taking 140 million cars off the road annually and almost single-handedly keeps emissions in the electric sector at today’s level.”

To see renewable technologies through to their potential penetration levels in the electricity sector, the trade association representatives emphasized the importance of stable, long-term policy support to promote investment in these technologies and ensure stable markets. There was consensus on four main policies to further the deployment of renewable technologies: long-term extension of the production and investment tax credits (PTC and ITC), a national renewable electricity standard (RES), a climate bill that financially recognizes renewable energy’s emission reduction contributions, and incentives to upgrade and expand the transmission grid.

John Stanton, executive vice president of the Solar Energy Industries Association www.seia.org , emphasized the effectiveness that a three-year stretch of ITC support has provided to the industry. “With the 30% investment tax credit for solar energy that was passed in 2005, we have seen 45% annual growth in megawatts installed in 2006 and 2007,” he said. SEIA estimates that with consistent policy support, such growth could increase to up to 67% annually. The wind industry has seen similarly strong growth with a PTC in place for three straight years, but both industries are fearful of a significant drop in 2009 without an immediate extension of the tax credits, which expire at the end of this year.

Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association www.geo-energy.org Karl Gawell noted that renewables are facing transmission barriers in the U.S. “Our transmission infrastructure needs to be capable of delivering renewable energy to consumers; our federal and state processes need to change,” he said. Stanton and Swisher pointed to Senator Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) Renewable Energy Transmission Corridor legislation as a possible vehicle for moving improvements in transmission infrastructure forward.

Regarding climate legislation, which is currently scheduled to be debated in early June in the Senate, the renewable trade groups are working together to ensure that renewable energy technologies are recognized for their greenhouse gas reduction contributions. Swisher detailed the policies the wind industry would like to see included in any climate legislation, including (1) making renewable generators eligible for an allocation of carbon credits, which can then be sold to raise revenue for additional projects; (2) using a portion of the auction revenue in a climate bill to fund a long-term production incentive; (3) using auction revenue to subsidize construction of new transmission infrastructure; (4) providing incentives for manufacturers to enter the supply chain for renewable industries; and (5) supporting training programs for workers to enter green jobs.

Powerpoint presentations and an audio file from the conference are available at: http://www.eesi.org/briefings/2008/050608_re_climate/050608_re_climate.html.