Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Liveblogging from Windpower 2008: AWEA News Conference

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) held a press conference about the growing investment in wind energy and the Department of Energy's report that 20 percent of America's energy can come from wind by 2030.

Panelists included: Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Andy Karsner from the DOE, Randy Swisher of AWEA, Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel, GE Energy's vice president for renewables Vic Abate, FPL Energy's senior vice president of development Michael O'Sullivan, Horizon Wind Energy's chief development officer Gabriel Alonso and Hunter Armistead of
Babcock and Brown.

In his opening remarks, Engel explained why the United States is such a big market for Denmark-based Vestas, the world's largest producer of wind turbines:

"The U.S. is our largest market, but having [wind energy] potential and realizing it are two different things. The U.S. has great potential. So this 20 percent report from the DOE is very important to plan what needs to be done. We need more long-term views. "
He also noted that we need to stop calling wind power "alternative energy:" "What's the alternative if you don't go in this direction?" he asked, alluding to the dramatic energy changes that need to take place to slow global warming.

Gabriel Alonso from Horizon agreed that the U.S. is still very attractive despite the obstacles. We have some of the best wind resources in the world and we have a good infrastructure (although it needs improvement) and 29 states with renewable energy standards. So the fundamentals of the industry all come together: The resources, demand and need.

Again, a big topic of discussion was the production tax credit (PTC) that's in a bill President Bush won't sign (for other reasons; he supports the PTC). An AP reporter asked whether the uncertainty of the PTC effects the investments of foreign companies in the U.S. Abate responded "clearly it does." For example, because there's policy instability in the U.S., GE focuses on building capacity in Europe, China and India. They need to diversify the technologically across the globe to offset uncertainty at home.

A reporter from Reuters asked whether the PTC could drive
too much investment in wind and drain subsidy money from the Treasury. Andy Karsner from the DOE answered that the more we scale the wind power industry, the more it will cost the Treasury. "So if we want to scale wind, we’ve got to have policies that aren’t based on a particular technology. That’s why policy has to be technology-neutral."

The representative from Babcock and Brown chimed in that incentives are a good thing. Besides, the government also incentivizes the oil, gas, nuclear industry and wind is a relatively small cost. "There may be a better way, but this is what we have to work with now."

Photo courtesy of AWEA

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