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State level laws for wind a priority -- AWEA's agenda

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is working this year for adoption and implementation of renewables portfolio standard (RPS) laws. Also on AWEA's agenda are regions where wind has the most immediate potential, other market restructuring issues, transmission, and the always-crucial issue of education.

With the future of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) assured for another 18 months, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is concentrating on other legislative priorities this year. The group's overriding priority is to work for adoption and implementation of renewables portfolio standard (RPS) laws. Also on AWEA's agenda are regions where wind has the most immediate potential, other market restructuring issues, transmission, and the always-crucial issue of education.

"The market for this technology will never move at the rate that it needs to without an RPS," says AWEA's Randy Swisher. Not much progress on a national RPS is expected this legislative year, which ends in September. In fact, although several versions of RPS bills have already been introduced in Congress in recent months, there may be no real progress even within the next legislative year or two, he says.

So AWEA's emphasis on the RPS in the near term is at the state level. AWEA is considering, for example, launching a campaign in Maryland to get an RPS adopted as state law. Legislation was recently introduced there, and though it is not likely to be acted upon this session, there may be enough support amongst state legislators to warrant a concerted effort by AWEA to get a similar bill introduced next year.

AWEA is also generally focussing on regions with the most near term potential for new wind development, especially the northeastern United States and the Upper Midwest and, slightly more down the road, California. This autumn AWEA will start laying the foundation for a second regional campaign similar to its recently announced Iowa campaign (Windpower Monthly, February 2000), but this time in Minnesota. As with the Iowa campaign, AWEA's effort in Minnesota will rely heavily on distributing information on-line.

The association also has its Wind Power New York campaign, launched in May last year in co-operation with 12 wind companies with a goal of prompting 1000 MW of wind in the state within a decade (Windpower Monthly, June 1999).

California, the first to deregulate its electricity market, will reach the end of the four year transition period to full competition at the end of 2001. The outlook for wind, in terms of state policy, will then be more uncertain. Indeed the state renewable energy credit, which allows sellers of green power to offer their products at lower prices, is already to be cut back this year because the money set aside is being depleted so quickly.

Transmission priority

A crucial long term issue for the US wind industry, says Swisher, is transmission. Although AWEA has recognised the issue's importance for some time, it was only in late January that it decided the time was ripe for AWEA to become more actively involved. The nation's windiest areas, such as the Dakotas, are distant from major population centres. AWEA has retained a consultant, Chris Ellison, a nationally known expert on transmission and an attorney who is based in Sacramento, California.

Once AWEA has clarified wind's policy needs, it would then expect to engage the Federal Electricity Regulatory Commission, as well as the regional Independent System Operators (ISOs), which are in the process of developing procedures for transmission as the US market deregulates state by state. "The goal is to make sure we aren't shut out because of wind's characteristics," says Swisher, referring to the fact that wind power supply cannot be turned on and off.

Next year, AWEA will be looking to work on extending the PTC again, a credit now worth approximately $0.017/kWh for projects completed up until the end of 2001. It is also working on education, especially by strengthening its web site. In addition, AWEA wants to improve the wind industry's relationship with the domestic financial community. Most of last year's wind rush financing came from overseas financial institutions.

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