ACORE: The american energy markets want more wind power

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Editor’s note: Matt Lewis is away, but his blog is as active as ever. This week, guest blogger Emily Zanotti wrote a post titled, “The government is blowing the whole wind energy revolution.” The American Council on Renewable Energy asked Matt for the opportunity to rebut Emily’s analysis, and he was happy to let them respond below.

By Kevin Haley, American Council on Renewable Energy

A recent “Matt Lewis & The News” guest post got a few things wrong on wind power – particularly the legitimate business case for renewable energy. A $269 billion industry last year, with $25 billion in wind business alone, the private sector would probably beg to differ with suggestions that “interest is actually declining” for wind. From strong public support to genuine business interest, renewable energy no longer depends on ideology to communicate its value.

First and foremost, we need to get our facts straight. As opposed to the 812 MW figured quoted in Ms. Zanotti’s post, the U.S. wind industry actually installed over 13,000 MW in 2012, bringing the total amount of wind in America to over 60 gigawatts (GW). As a percentage of America’s total power consumption, 12%+ comes from a combo of renewables – hydropower, geothermal, wind, solar, etc. On the state level, these numbers are amplified. For example, Iowa generated more than 24% of its electricity from wind power last year – a national record.

Incidentally, wind energy installations also proved to be the largest single new generation technology in the U.S. in 2012, outpacing even natural gas and adding over double the capacity of new coal last year. Since 2009, non-hydro renewable-energy capacity in the U.S. doubled from 43.5GW to over 86 GW in 2013.

But pinning renewable energy’s success on “big government” policies is misleading at best. First, the energy markets are already skewed – this is a fact. The Congressional Budget Office points out that only four major energy tax credits that are permanent (i.e. they never expire). Three of credits are for fossil fuels and one is for nuclear energy. Wind and other technologies have to suffer through business-crushing cycles of uncertainty, as a gridlocked Congress is yet to permanently level the playing field for renewable energy.

Second, the private sector really does like renewable energy. A major Midwest power producer, Xcel Energy, is voluntarily adding 750 MW of wind to their portfolio, citing competitive costs that are actually lower than natural gas and will save customers $590 million in fuel expenses over 20 years. Other businesses, like Wal-Mart and Google are adding solar PV to their facilities, with the goal of powering their operations with 100% renewable energy. And just before recess Congress passed a rare bipartisan bill that cuts regulations to encourage hydropower retrofits, expected to create 700,000 new jobs nationwide through 2025. These investments will pay major dividends tomorrow and for generations.

The same old “subsidies this, Solyndra that” song-and-dance just doesn’t cut it anymore. From Texas oil fields to Bakken shale gas, the U.S. government has always been involved in energy production and this is not going to change. Let’s be realistic – it’s time to focus on how we can create jobs, economic opportunity and strong, domestic energy security with American resources. And believe me, if you don’t see economic growth in the renewables sector, you’re not looking hard enough.

So kudos to Ms. Zanotti for highlighting the DOE wind report. She may have misinterpreted it initially, but a second look would show that wind – and all other renewable energy for that matter – is growing into an economic powerhouse that pro-business conservatives can support. We have a rich history of energy prowess and innovation in America. Renewable energy is ready to uphold that tradition.

Kevin Haley is the strategic communications manager at the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). ACORE is a pro-business non-profit dedicated to building a more secure and prosperous
America with clean, renewable energy.