United States

United States

Benefical but not crucial

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America's amended Clean Air Act will benefit wind power but it will not make or break a project, according to lobbyists. Under the new legislation, utilities can trade and sell pollution allowances, giving an advantage to those using clean power production. The first phase of the provisions, enacted in 1990, go into effect in 1995.

"It's important for project developers to include in their sales pitch," says Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association. "But it will not make or break a project." Janet Gille of the Centre for Clean Air Policy in Washington DC, is of the same mind. "I think the incentive is there for renewables. It's very beneficial for electric renewable energy. It looks more attractive. But I agree it will not make or break a project."

Under the legislation, 300,000 pollution allowances each worth only $175-$250 on the open market can be bought and sold. The market for allowances opened this year. Each allowance equals one ton of sulphur dioxide for a year, says Janet Gille.

The act is aimed at cutting emissions in half, to 1980 levels, by the year 2000. The 110 dirtiest power plants must start complying in 1995, and all power plants over 25 MW must comply by 2000, when there will be 8.9 million allowances being traded and sold.

But not all renewable energy people are that pleased with this attempt to create a free market in pollution. "It's a license to pollute," says Swisher scathingly. "[The allowances are] a small marginal factor in utility decision making. It will not drive the economics by themselves."

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