Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Liveblogging from Windpower 2008: Policy and Infrastructure

Yesterday I attended a session about wind power policy at the state and federal levels. The Lt. Governor of Ohio, Lee Fisher (check back soon for my interview with him) and Pennsylvania's Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty explained why their states have been so successful at attracting renewable energy companies:
  • Policy requirements for renewables
  • Tax incentives
  • Strong manufacturing base
  • Educated work force
But an audience member at the end of the session really drove home the fact that policies are great - but the infrastructure needed is a huge problem. He was with a private equity firm in Minnesota:

"I hope you all understand that we developers are
gridlocked by government. I’m trying to build 10,000 MW in states throughout the Upper Midwest and am constantly told by [transmission operators] MISO, WAPA and others that we need more studies [for the infrastructure and transmission]. It’s analysis paralysis. I hope you understand how frustrating this is. I just wish people would put aside their 'philosophies' and do what’s right for the American consumer and give them an alternative. We are stuck for the next five months. I hope you understand how frustrating this is."

U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was on the panel and assured the audience member that they were working as hard as they could to get the PTC through Congress and that infrastructure is understood to be a major problem. I saw the audience member chatting with the panel afterwards so it was all quite amiable, but a reminder that signing the policies can often be the easiest part. Government can't always go away after that. Commitments to infrastructure and support must be carried through.

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