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Sep 082010

Wind turbine in China

From Green Right Now Reports

China has succeeded the U.S. as the most attractive location in which to invest in renewable energy projects, according to Ernst & Young’s latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices.

China entered the Country Attractiveness Indices table in December 2004 and, since then, has progressed steadily to the top of the All Renewables Index. In the last index, it was tied with the US.

The U.S. dropped two points in the indices, to fall behind China, after a federal Renewable Energy Standard was not enacted this summer. Construction of new renewable energy facilities is expected to further slow down following the December 2010 expiration of an important deadline in the Treasury grant program with no assurance of renewal, generating investor uncertainty about the continuation of an effective incentive mechanism.

“China’s steady rise to pole position has been underpinned by strong and consistent government support for renewable energy,” Ben Warren, Ernst & Young’s Environment and Energy Infrastructure Advisory Leader, said in a statement. “This, together with substantial commitment from industry and the sheer scale of its natural resources, means that its position as top spot for renewable energy investment is well-merited.

“Although the United States remains a highly attractive location for investors in renewable energy, it is clear that recent events have eased momentum. The U.S. market continues to have significant potential but requires consistent legislative support to provide investors with the long-term confidence they need.”

Other markets, most notably Spain, are also showing signs of wavering support largely due to ‘tariff deficits’ and the underlying affordability of support mechanisms. This may remain a feature for some time, and points to the need for governments to continue to make the case for renewable energy and how it can add value to their economies.

The indices see Spain receive a single point downgrade largely as a result of current deliberations regarding retroactive changes to the photovoltaic tariffs. If implemented, these are expected to have a significant detrimental impact on Spain’s rating across the whole renewables sector, reflecting increased regulatory risk of investing in Spain. Germany also dropped a point, having finally announced cuts to solar PV tariffs, which are set to limit future installations given the frantic rush to install in the first half of the year prior to the announcement.

India also had a one-point drop following its government’s mandate to use local PV manufacturers for the 22GW National Solar Mission. Indian PV module makers may not be able to keep up with the surging domestic demand, impairing the country’s ability to meet its ambitious solar energy target.

Australia increased its rating by one point, following its Senate passing amended legislation that targets 20% of energy from renewable sources while committing $652.5m (euro 458m) over four years to set up a Renewable Energy Future Fund. However, doubts still remain whether the new government will establish a national market for trading carbon emissions.

Japan saw a one-point increase, following a 2.6-fold growth in it solar cell market in the financial year to March 31, owing to the country’s aggressive climate policies. New Zealand also rose a point, following the launch of an emissions trading scheme in a bid to curb carbon emissions. As a result, energy, transport and manufacturing industries will have to pay for their emissions of gases which is expected to have a knock-on effect in boosting renewable deployment in the country.

Mar 162010

From Green Right Now Reports

Image: Governors' Wind Energy Coalition

Image: Governors' Wind Energy Coalition

While there is no shortage of hot air swirling around various plans to harness wind energy to power our homes and businesses, a group of United States governors has hammered out a plan and is ready to take it all the way to the top.

On Tuesday, Iowa Governor Chet Culver and Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri released Great Expectations: U.S. Wind Energy Development, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition’s 2010 Recommendations. Culver and Carcieri are the chair and vice chair of the 29-state organization, which is attempting to shape a national policy to make wind power both viable and cost-effective.

The group formed over a year ago and began work on recommendations in December. The next step: Lobbying efforts to get a bill into Congress and on to President Barack Obama’s desk as soon as possible.

“We need all the clean and cost-effective resources we can generate. And we will only get there if we work together,” Culver said during a press conference called in conjunction with the report’s release. “Continued uncertainty will potentially cause the nation to surrender the industry to other countries. If China gets the job of supplying the U.S. wind industry, (jobs) could be lost forever.

“The good news is that we have increased wind generation dramatically over the past few years, but continued growth hinges on a more stable market. Given the immense advantages wind power provides to industry, consumers and the environment, it is clear that Congress must pass a strong federal renewable electricity policy so investors, developers and state policy makers are working together to achieve a common goal.”

Among the recommendations in the report:

  • Adopt a renewable electricity standard (Known as  a RES, it sets benchmarks for the nation to reach a certain level of clean energy production by specific dates. Many believe that having a strong RES is the only way that clean energy technology can promise lenders and investors a measure of security, to show that the industry will not be buffeted by politics in the coming years.)
  • Develop new interstate electric transmission system infrastructure as needed to provide access to premier renewable energy resources both on-shore and offshore
  • Fully support coastal, deep water, and offshore wind energy technology and transmission research and development
  • Streamline permitting processes for both offshore and on-shore wind energy development projects
  • Expand the U.S. Department of Energy’s work with the states and the wind industry to accelerate innovation
  • Extend the Treasury Department Grant Program in lieu of the Investment Tax Credit — providing immediate capital, and adopt a long-term renewable energy production tax credit with provisions to broaden the pool of eligible investors

“These recommendations could not be more timely,” Carcieri said. “Congressional action on the energy bill seems to have stalled. It is our hope that these recommendations — and the national bipartisan consensus they represent — will advance the energy deliberations now under way in Congress.”

May 152009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Comments are flying faster than bats heading for a wind turbine in D.C. as all the “stakeholders” queue up to make their case for or against the Waxman-Markey climate legislation being debated next week.

First, our favorite — and this is a real giggle — from U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, the fast-fossilizing Republican from the Dallas area. He’s suggested that Congress not “cap” industrial emissions per se and that it “exclude carbon dioxide from a list of federal pollutants,” according to a McClatchy-Tribune news service report.

Right. Great answer to carbon pollution.

Next up, from a different perspective, our friends in wind power generation. They’re in a panic that Congress, with its perennial tendency to compromise until neither side is happy, will wantonly dilute the W-M bill requirements. Specifically, they’re concerned about the chipping away at the renewable electricity standard or RES, which designates that the country should using a certain percentage of clean energy by a certain year.

Talk was that the RES would be set at 25 percent by 2025– clean, simple. It was what U.S. Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Edward J. Markey and President Obama wanted, that 25 percent of U.S. power would come from wind, solar, geothermal and other low-carbon sources, and it would happen by 2025.

But a new draft of the American Clean Energy and Security Act now makes that 20 percent by 2020. Doesn’t sound so bad.

But wait, here come the loopholes: Only 15 percent of the electricity would have to come from renewables, the other five could come from “energy efficiency measures”.

A further loophole would allow a governor to reduce the clean energy component to 12 percent for his or her state (this could help “low wind” states), as long as he/she could account for the other 8 percent with “energy efficiency measures” (adding up to 20, see?).

All this slippage is in response to concerns that electricity consumers would suffer increases in their bills at the higher RES. And one argument that does make sense is that not all states are created equal. It will take some innovation to bring solar and wind to places where solar and wind power are not easy solutions, say a non-windy Northern locale.

Still, one can’t help but notice that the D.C. mishmasher has made the new proposed RES more complicated and opens the door for “clean coal,” that quixotic elixir that’s supposed to make coal viably clean but which nobody can afford (that ought to make electricity cheaper) to malinger. Not to mention the potential that some places could stay tethered too long to dirty power sources under the influence of powerful lobbyists, while substituting energy conservation measures (that we should be taking anyway) for real change.

Of more urgent note: The group of U.S. wind executives say diluting the RES would deflate the newbie U.S. clean energy industry, where wind companies are playing catch-up to European firms as well as competing with countries like China.

Yes, they’re playing the job card. But perhaps someone should.

“We are concerned that the significantly lower renewable targets currently being discussed, as compared to proposals from President Obama, Chairman Bingaman and Chairman Markey, will severely blunt the signal for companies like ours that manufacture turbines and components to invest billions of dollars to expand production and our workforces in the U.S.,” said the letter. It was signed by the future wannabe titans of the industry –GE Energy, Vestas Americas, Gamesa, NRG Systems, REPower USA, Broadwind Energy, TPI Composites, PPG Industries, Clipper Windpower and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The AWEA calculates that the wind industry now employees about 85,000 Americans (did I say voters?), counting manufacturing, construction and operations.

A weak RES — talk about taking the wind out of our sails.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Mar 242009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Shifting the U.S. toward more renewable wind and solar power would not only generate thousands of jobs and lower consumers’ electric bills, it would create new income for rural residents and vastly reduce carbon emissions, according to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The UCS released a study today showing that if utilities were required to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 it would:

  • Create nearly 300,000 new domestic jobs
  • Save consumers some $65 billion in lower gas and electricity bills through 2025; up to $95 billion through 2030.
  • Generate $13.5 billion in new income for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners who could gain from hosting new wind and solar installations
  • Reduce global warming pollution by 277 million metric tons a year by 2025, the equivalent of the annual output of 70 average-size new coal-fired power plants.

The analysis was released as Congress considers enacting a renewable energy standard (RES) – a requirement that U.S. utilities obtain a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. Bills calling for an increase in renewable power to 25 percent by 2025 are active in both the House and the Senate.

“A strong renewable electricity standard would help pull our economy out of the ditch by creating nearly 300,000 new jobs,” said Jeff Deyette, an analyst with the UCS Clean Energy Program and co-author of the study, in a statement.

“Our study found that, kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour, renewable energy generates more than three times as many jobs than fossil fuels, leading to a net job gain of 202,000. More renewable energy would mean more workers building wind turbines and installing solar panels here in the United States.”

Said Alan Nogee, the UCS Clean Energy Program director: “A typical household would save nearly $70 in annual gas and electricity costs by 2025. Every little bit helps.”