European Commission Releases ‘Green Paper’

wind turbinesThe European Commission has opened the debate on EU energy and climate policy after 2020 – offering the energy industry the prospect of the long-term clarity and stability needed for large, long-term investments. The European Commission’s Green Paper on a “2030 framework for climate and energy policies,” presents 2030 targets as a key policy option.

“It is important to put long-term climate and renewable energy policies in place, and the European Commission and Council already agree that an increase in renewable energy is a ‘no-regrets’ option,” said Justin Wilkes, Director of Policy of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Energy policy debate over the coming months will be crucial to Europe’s future.”

¨Member States must now join the European Parliament and the Energy and Climate Action Commissioners in support of a 2030 renewable energy target, together with a greenhouse gas target. This would allow Europe to replace fossil fuel imports with a thriving European wind energy industry generating large amounts of zero-emissions renewable power and technology exports,” continued Wilkes.

He concluded, “Setting a binding 2030 renewable energy target would help the achievement of the 2020 targets, by providing the wind sector with the clarity needed to make the necessary long-term investments, thereby driving down capital costs as well as the cost of capital.”

Renewable Energy Up, Enery Consumption, CO2 Down

According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through December 31, 2012, renewable energy sources and natural gas expanded rapidly during the Obama Administration’s first term while coal, nuclear power, oil imports and use, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions all declined significantly.

Comparing data for 2008 (last year of the Bush Administration) to data for 2012 (last year of the Obama Administration’s first term), domestic energy production from renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind) grew by 23.48 percent with wind and solar more than doubling their output.

EIA Primary Energy OverviewBy comparison, total domestic energy production from all sources increased by just 8.15 percent with domestic natural gas and crude oil production growing by 18.71 percent and 29.47 percent respectively. Moreover, during the same period, nuclear power output declined by 4.47 percent and domestic coal production dropped by 13.28 percent. Total energy use declined by 4.16 percent, petroleum consumption decreased by 6.95 percent, CO2 emissions dropped by 9.38 percent, and imports of crude oil and petroleum products fell by 17.32 percent.

“The numbers speak for themselves – notwithstanding politically-inspired criticism, the energy policies pioneered by the Obama Administration have generated dramatic growth rates for renewable energy during the past four years, while significantly reducing oil imports and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as state officials and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of seemingly endless proposals to slash or discontinue such support.”

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy sources accounted for 11.23 percent of domestic energy production in 2012 – compared to 9.84 percent in 2008. In fact, renewable energy sources provided 10.47 percent more energy in 2012 than did nuclear power, although nuclear still provides a larger share of the nation’s electricity (18.97% vs. 12.22%).

During the first four years of the Obama Administration, hydropower production grew by 7.01 percent, geothermal by 18.23 percent, biofuels by 40.66 percent, solar by 138.20 percent, and wind by 149.27 percent. Only biomass dipped – by 0.89 percent. Hydropower accounted for 30.21 percent of domestic energy production from renewable sources in 2012, followed by biomass (27.61%), biofuels (21.94%), wind (15.30%), geothermal (2.55%), and solar (2.39%). Note” These figures may not fully reflect the total contribution from renewable energy sources inasmuch as EIA data does not totally account for distributed, non-grid connected applications.

Wind Tax Credits Helpful But Require a Little Help

KarlovCredits for wind energy production and investment were approved as part of the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff at the beginning of this year. But deciding which credit is right for your operation and investment takes some good professional advice. Leah Karlov is a lawyer at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, a firm that specializes in the domestic sector, especially renewable energy tax credits. She spoke with Joanna to explain some of the implications of the wind energy credits and what they mean to the industry and investors.

“I think [the tax credits] stabilize the development and investment development,” Leah explained, pointing out that the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) have been renewed through the end of this year. One of the best features of the credit is that the project doesn’t have to be finished and placed in service by the end of this year, as with previous versions of these tax credits, just starting construction. “What this is going to do is allow projects that were tabled because they could not meet the placed-in-service deadline to come back into action.”

But just being able to use a credit doesn’t tell an operation which credit they SHOULD use. For example, when comparing the Investment versus the Production Tax Credits, Leah said you need to understand the difference. For one, the ITC is a one-time 30 percent credit on what you invest, and you have to be invested in the project for five years or the tax credit is prorated for every year not involved. And even foreign investors and producers can take advantage of these credits. It really comes down to getting good advice on which one is right … or even a combination of credits that are right for your situation.

“Start talking to your counsel and to your accountants and anybody you’ve been in discussion with in respect to projects that haven’t started yet. If you’ve got something in the pipeline, I’d start talking to the people who can help you get that moving, because this is the opportunity now to commence construction and get it going. There’s a chance to do it now.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Leah here: Interview with Leah Karlov

Global Wind Day 2013 Photo Competition

Global Wind Day logoThe European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) have launched a global photo competition – ‘Discover the stories behind wind energy’. Deadline for submissions is May 5, 2013. The first prize winner will receive a 1,000 Euro voucher. Second prizes of 250 Euros will be awarded by region. The winning photographs will be displayed in the European Parliament in Brussels in June. They will also be published in the renewable energy newspaper ‘Recharge‘ and EWEA’s magazine ‘Wind Directions‘.

Prize winners will be announced on Global Wind Day, the worldwide day ‘to discover the power of wind energy’ that occurs annually on June 15 with several hundred events, exhibitions, open wind farms and local activities organized in about 40 countries all around the globe, as well as online actions.

You can find information on the photo competition here.

America Poised to Take Control of Energy Future

According to President Obama, America is poised to take control of our energy future, but this could be compromised due to the arbitrary cuts caused by the so-called “sequestration” now taking place. During his speech last Friday at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois, the President pointed out the cuts would affect the federal research projects, “at a time when the country is poised to take control of our energy future.”

obama-argonne-national-lab from cbs“After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to take control of our energy future. We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We’re producing more natural gas than we ever have before — with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We supported the first new nuclear power plant in America since the 1970s. And we’re sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years.”

While focusing much of his speech on his proposed actions to replace the cuts, he also discussed his proposal to create an Energy Security Trust that would use revenues generated by oil and gas development on federal lands to support new research and technologies that will shift cars and trucks to non-oil fuels. With gas prices high during the past month, Obama urged Congress to adopt his approach.

The renewable energy industry responded to the President’s remarks as well as his proposed Energy Security Trust. Continue reading

Feds Give Nevada Wind Project the Green Light

searchlightwind1A project to build wind turbines to be built on federal lands got the government’s approval to move ahead. KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reports Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office announced the Department of the Interior has a approved the 200-Megawatt wind project in Searchlight, Nevada, just the second utility-scale wind energy project to be allowed in the state:

The permanent wind farm will be located on 163 acres and the wind turbines are designed to stand 415-feet tall, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

“Nevada is fortunate that its sunny skies, strong winds, and geothermal resources provides us an opportunity to brighten our economic future and transform the Silver State into the vibrant core of a Western and national clean energy market,” Reid said in the statement.

The project is expected to provide enough power for about 70,000 homes. It is still awaiting a right-of-way grant, according to the Interior Department.

Two-Home Wind Turbine Tested in Canada

canadawindturbineA wind turbine designed to serve up to two homes is being tested in Canada. CBC News reports the mid-sized turbine designed by students from 16 universities from across Canada have is being tested at P.E.I.’s Wind Energy Institute of Canada and is intended to hit that niche between the really small turbines and the bigger ones too large to service individual homes.

“There are some turbines in that size, but it seems they’re either smaller — so a couple of kilowatts, there’s a large number — and then we’ve got others that are up in the 30, 50 to 100-kilowatt range,” said [Wind Energy Institute CEO Scott] Harper.

“There’s maybe a market niche there for something in the 10-kilowatt size. I think it was more, as they designed it, it was big enough, designed large enough to prove that it can work, and test it here to show real results.”

The project, created by a group called the Wind Energy Strategic Network, is being tested through next fall.

Wind Could Blow Away Nuclear, Coal

WindTurbineinIowa-Photo-Joanna-SchroederWind energy might be poised to do something that should warm the hearts of environmentalists: kill off the nuclear power industry and hurt coal-powered energy operators. This Businessweek article says the news comes on the heels of a record 13,124 megawatts of wind turbines added to the country’s power grid at the end of 2012, trying to take advantage of an expiring federal tax credit.

“Right now, natural gas and wind power are more economic than nuclear power in the Midwestern electricity market,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocate of cleaner energy, said in a phone interview. “It’s a matter of economic competitiveness.”

Wind-generated electricity supplied about 3.4 percent of U.S. demand in 2012 and the share is projected to jump to 4.2 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The wind power boom has benefited consumers in regions where wind development is fastest, contributing to a 40 percent wholesale power-price plunge since 2008 in the Midwest, for example. Yet the surplus is creating havoc for nuclear power and coal generators that sell their output into short-term markets.
‘Perfect Storm’

The impact is greatest in the capacity-glutted Midwest. There, Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion is closing a money- losing reactor and selling coal plants, Exelon warns of shrinking nuclear margins and an Edison International (EIX) merchant coal-plant unit has gone into bankruptcy.

In fact, wind power is becoming so plentiful and so cheap that prices are actually falling below zero, because some utilities are required to keep buying wind power even when they don’t need it. Add in the $22-per-megawatt-hour federal tax credit, and wind can keep blowing away the other guys. Plus, the wind production tax credit has been extended for another year, through the end of 2013.

NW-REI Offers Wind Turbine Training

Northwest Renewable Energy Institute (NW-REI) is offering a Wind Turbine Technician program and is hosting three free informational sessions on the program this month: Tuesday, March 5th at 7:00 pm; Saturday, March 9th at 10:30 am; and Saturday, March rei-site-work23rd at 10:30 am. According to the U.S. Department of Energy energy map of installed wind capacity, Oregon and Washington are two of the top states in the country for wind energy use.

“This school has afforded me the chance to pursue a positive career change that fits in with my lifestyle and plans for the future. This field is growing and I can see it continuing to grow,” said Stephanie Staggs, a recent graduate of the program. “I love the accelerated program — it’s challenging, fast paced and very hands-on. The instructors are amazing and really work hard at helping you every step of the way.”

With green energy in high demand, NW-REI’s says its in-depth technical training and valuable on-the-job experience provides the tools necessary for success in this fast-growing industry. The program takes students out of a classroom and puts them 300 feet into the air on a wind turbine. Students can expect an innovative approach to wind turbine training that will include classroom-based training, computer-based training and hands-on training. The green energy training programs teach the technical skills necessary to service, repair, and maintain wind turbines.

Click here for additional information regarding NW-REI.

Solar Takes Lead in Renewable Energy Growth

According to the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly,” renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased by 12.8 percent last year compared to 2011 and provided 5.4 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. Solar increased by 138.9 percent while wind grew 16.6 pecent, geothermal by 9.6 percent, and biomass (i.e., wood, wood-derived fuels, and other biomass) by 1.6 percent. Since 2007, non-hydro renewables have more than doubled their contribution to the nation’s electrical supply.

geothermal-energy-1At the same time (2012 compared to 2011), total net U.S. electrical generation dropped by 1.1 percent with petroleum coke & liquids down by 24.1 percent, coal by 12.5 percent, and nuclear by 2.6 percent. Less than a decade ago, coal provided more than half the nation’s electricity, fell to 37.4 percent while nuclear fell below 19 percent. Conventional hydropower also declined by 13.4 percent due to last year’s drought and lower water flows, but natural gas expanded by 21.4 percent to provide 30.3 percent of net electrical generation.

Conventional hydropower and non-hydro renewable sources combined accounted for 12.22 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. However, as EIA has noted in the past, these figures do not comprehensively reflect distributed, non-grid connected generation and thereby understate the full contribution of renewables to the nation’s electrical supply.

EIA’s report also reveals the top renewable-electricity generating states for 2012: top five wind states: Texas, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, and Illinois;  top five biomass states: California, Florida, Maine, Georgia, and Alabama; top five geothermal States: California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho; and top five solar states: California, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

“Technical advances, falling costs, and the desire to address climate change have combined to rapidly expand the contribution of renewable energy to the nation’s electrical generation,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With the right policy incentives, one can foresee these cleaner energy sources providing the bulk of the nation’s electrical needs within a generation.”