Winds of Change? Could a National RES Keep Growth Going?
The sun may shine and the wind might blow without government support, but some green industry advocates say long-
term policy initiatives are necessary to boost the fledgling wind power industry.
In an effort to encourage Congressional support for passage of a strong national Renewable Energy Standard (RES), and to show that politicians aren’t the only ones who can move a lot of air around, 120 wind energy representatives traveled to Washington, D.C. for a March 10 event dubbed “Wind Power on Capitol Hill.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 24 states plus the District of Columbia have policies in place requiring electricity providers to generate a minimum percentage of their power from renewable resources. Five additional states have non-binding goals.
But not only do these requirements range from Pennsylvania’s 8% by 2020 to Maine’s 40% by 2017, they obviously don’t cover the whole country and lack the mountain-moving force of a federal mandate.
And meanwhile, according to representatives of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. is missing out on the potential of wind power to grow the economy, add jobs and promote energy independence. See more on the organization at www.awea.org.
Despite the economy, 2009 was a banner year for the wind power industry. Approximately 9,900 additional megawatts (MW) were brought on line, representing a 39% increase in wind power’s capacity. The AWEA credits the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with providing the tax and investment incentives which drove last year’s growth.
Wind power currently generates enough electricity to power 9.7 million homes, and supplies about 2% of the electrical generating capacity in the U.S.
But that’s just the tip of the turbine, according to industry advocates, who maintain that the American-based wind energy field is poised to blow the competition away – with the help of federal tax credits
A new study by Navigant Consulting found that 274,000 new renewable energy jobs would be created by an ambitious 25% by 2025 national RES. Industry advocates recommend easing the U.S. towards this goal with short term standards of 12 % in 2014 and 20% by 2020. Access the summary or full study at www.res-alliance.org/res-jobs-study.
Without strong national standards, renewable energy advocates warn of zero jobs growth in the wind power industry.