July 10, 2011

Wind energy against the world

A correspondent has informed us that the current (July 2011) issue of North American Windpower includes five articles decrying the imminent loss of subsidies and enforcement of wildlife regulations.

1. "Near-term U.S. policy incentives remain in limbo" — cover story by Allan Marks.
With several policy incentives set to expire, the wind industry is set to enter a period of great uncertainty.
With the upcoming expiration of many federal incentives for renewable energy technologies, the future of wind power projects will be left in a state of flux. By the end of 2012, several federal programs — including the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Section 1603 cash-grant program, the U.S. Department of Energy's Section 1705 loan-guarantee program and the availability of bonus depreciation — are scheduled to expire. The production tax credit and the investment tax credit for wind projects are also scheduled to expire at that time. [In fact, as far as we know all of these except the PTC expire at the end of 2011.] ... Another aspect affecting the future of wind power that is often overlooked is environmental policy. ... The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in February updated federal guidelines concerning wind energy projects, resulting in the Draft Voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines and the Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance. These draft guidelines contain more enhanced protocols for studying possible avian impacts during pre-construction and implementing mitigation measures post-construction than what were specified under the 2001 FWS interim guidelines for wind projects.

2. "It's loud and clear: '2013 needs an answer'" — by Angela Beniwal.
A group of wind industry leaders gathered at the recent Windpower 2011 conference to discuss the current state of wind development in the U.S. ... [They] agreed that the expiration of the Treasury Department's Section 1603 cash-grant program at the end of this year and the expiration of the production tax credit in 2012 are worrisome. ... Jan Blittersdorf, president and CEO of NRG Systems, said sales at her wind assessment equipment company are an indicator of where the U.S. wind market stands. ... "We well all over the world, and the markets we're selling into right now are in Asia. And, frankly, our percentage of sales in the U.S. is about as low as I've ever seen it."

3. "Policy uncertainty continues to linger" — by Mark Del Franco.
Although much of the federal policy driving wind power remains firm in the near term, there are dark clouds just over the horizon. For example, two of the primary incentives used by developers — the U.S. Treasure Department's Section 1603 cash-grant program and the production tax credit — will soon expire. ... Although the extension of either or both policy incentives would be welcome news for the industry, receiving such immediate satisfaction is unlikely. ... "There will be no extension of any wind subsidies until, at the earliest, late 2012 after the fall election, with a significant risk of no action until early 2013," says Edward Einowski, a partner at Stoel Rives. "What action will be taken will largely depend on the outcome of the election," he says, "which could range from Democrats taking back the House and gaining 60-plus seats in the Senate — in which event PTC and ITC grant extensions appear more likely — to further gains by the Republicans in both the House and Senate, in which event any extension of either the PTC or ITC grants may well be problematic."

4. "Rep. pledges policy support" — by Angela Beniwal.
During the opening session fot he Windpower 2011 conference in May, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., spoke about the need for implementing long-term energy policies that will help the wind industry fully come to scale. ... Blumenauer, a member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, said people need to understand the importance of subsidies for the wind industry. ... But he said that transmission and integration issues must first be resolved. ... The congressman also advocated changing the regulatory process so that developing wind projects is not cumbersome. ... Blumenauer also expressed support for a national renewable electricity standard.

5. "Developers testify before Congress" (unsigned).
Land-based and offshore wind energy developers testified before Congress in June about the need for consistent and long-term federal policies to support the deployment of renewable energy, AWEA reports. The land-based wind developers also focused on rules recently proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that threaten hundreds of wind farms with years of delays and millions of dollars in costs, according to AWEA, which submitted extensive public comments on the two FWS policies of concern: the Draft Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines and the Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance. ... James Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates LLC, and Jim Lanard, president of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, also testified on the need for stable and longer-term federal policy support, including an extension of the ITC and extending the loan-guarantee program.