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United States

RES argument reinforced by 'dismal' US wind results

US: US wind energy advocates ramped up the pressure for a national renewable energy standard (RES), pointing to the industry's disappointing second quarter performance.

A mandatory target needs to be added to a pared-down energy bill released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (pictured)
A mandatory target needs to be added to a pared-down energy bill released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (pictured)

They said a mandatory target needs to be added to a pared-down energy bill released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and arguing there are enough votes to get the measure passed.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says 700MW of new capacity was installed in the second quarter, bringing 2010’s total so far to 1239MW. That’s a 71% drop from where the industry was at the same time last year and a 57% decrease from 2008. Manufacturing is also lagging, the association says, with two new factories opened thus far in 2010 compared to seven in 2008 and five in 2009.

"The numbers are dismal," says AWEA CEO Denise Bode.

Bode lays the blame squarely on the fact that policymakers have failed to set a mandatory target for the percentage of renewable electricity that must be a part of the nation’s electricity mix. A RES, she says, would spur demand and provide manufacturers with the long-term view that they need to invest in US facilities.

"The lack of action is just unbelievable. It’s incomprehensible," Bode says.

Faced with a dwindling legislative timeline and pressure to get something through the Senate to address the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Reid opted to exclude both a renewable standard and carbon caps from his bill. Instead, it couples provisions to raise liability caps for oil companies and improve oil spill responses with relatively non-controversial energy efficiency items and incentives for natural gas and electric vehicles.

It’s a package Reid thinks he can push through before senators head home for a month-long summer recess at the end of next week. An RES debate is expected to not only take more time, but Reid has also said he doesn’t think he has the 60 votes needed to see it pass.

Bode disagrees, saying RES supporters have counted more than 60 committed votes for a target, passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, that would see 15% of electricity demand met by renewable energy source by 2020, with utilities able to meet 4% of that through energy efficiency improvements.

"We don’t understand why we aren’t included," she says.

The target is less stringent than the 25% by 2025 standard AWEA has been pushing for, but Bode says the industry is ready to take what it can get in order to ensure investors get the long-term market signal they need.

"It is what we believe is doable in these political times here at the last hour," she says.

"We are obviously in a situation where we need that signal sent and we need it sent now. We are in the art of what’s possible."

AWEA will push to have the RES added as an amendment to Reid’s bill, says Bode.

The industry association expects activity to pick up in the second half of 2010, with more than 5.5GW of wind currently under construction. But it projects 2010 installations will still likely be 25-45% below 2009. There is also a "dramatic drop" in project development pipeline once facilities now under construction come on line, AWEA’s second quarter report says.

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