“Renewable Energy at a Crossroads: Investment and Production Up, but Policies Uncertain” - Energy Minute for April 24, 2013
The renewable energy industry has arrived at an intersection of fast forward growth in production and a pause in energy policy. From a business standpoint, the news is all good. In March, for the first time, all new electrical capacity added to the national grid came from solar power, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Solar provided nearly one-third of all new utility-scale power during the first quarter of 2013, adding twice as much new capacity as in all of 2012. Since 2008, the amount of solar energy has grown by more than 600 percent, and the industry has created 119,000 jobs. There’s more good news in the wind energy department: that sector has grown by 28 percent since 2011, says the latest report from the American Wind Energy Association.
Wind energy now tops all sources totaling 42 percent of all new, annual, installed U.S. electric generating capacity. $25 billion in private investment has gone into wind farm development in 2012 alone, and the industry has created 80,000 new jobs. This economic activity has stimulated 29 states and the District of Columbia to adopt hard targets for renewable energy production, and another eight states to set goals. By 2025, it is estimated that renewable energy could provide 10 percent of the nation’s electric generation capacity.
Then there’s that other news, about an energy policy “pause.” Legislators in 14 states have introduced bills that would water down or repeal their mandates. The 30 percent commercial and residential solar Investment Tax Credit is under review by Congress. And the wind energy Production Tax Credit has been renewed for just one more year, causing a hold on new projects. But the public is ahead of the uncertain policymakers: a recent Gallup poll finds that 75 percent of Americans support increased solar energy use, 71 percent favor more wind energy. Some politicians have noticed: Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire and Rob Portman, Republican of Oregon, have reintroduced an updated, bipartisan energy efficiency bill that would promote the transition to renewable energy while driving economic growth. Last year, that legislation was projected to save consumers $4 billion by 2020 and help businesses add 80,000 new jobs. Along with the rapidly rising figures from renewable energy production, those are numbers that policymakers will have to pay attention to.
I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.
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