Monday, November 17, 2008

Renewables Energized by Obama, Announce 2009 Agenda

On Thursday I was invited to a call-in news conference hosted by the leaders of the major renewable energy trade associations in the U.S.:
All of these industries were obviously thrilled at the prospect of a new administration that has so explicitly committed to advancing clean energy via national renewable energy requirements, cap-and-trade mechanisms and investment in efficiency. That commitment, coupled with the crippling economic crisis and the global warming problem make it clear that renewables can play a valuable role in addressing our energy security, economic growth and cutting emissions.

While each industry has sector-specific policies (wind and geothermal, for example, want a multi-year tax credit like solar received, rather than the 12-month one they got), they are collectively seeking the following:
  • A national renewable energy standard, which would require a certain percentage of our energy to come from renewable sources.
  • An extension of flexible production tax credits
  • A major new investment in transmission
  • An investment of $30 billion in new clean energy projects right away to help kick start the economy (President-elect Obama has stated he would commit $150 billion over the next 10 years, but these industries believe more immediate action is needed to boost the economy)
  • A cap-and-trade policy
Most of these requests fall within Obama’s stated energy plans. But it would be great, Karl Gawell of the Geothermal Energy Association noted, if the Obama administration would bring solar panels to the White House, along with the new puppy.

So what could slow down or stall the renewable renaissance? Not global warming deniers. Not even fossil fuel companies.

Transmission.


Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association explained that transmission – infrastructure – is the single largest long-term constraint facing wind and other renewables.
“We can’t meet the climate challenge or the energy challenge without these green energy superhighways.”
Specifically, these renewable industries believe a nationwide transmission system – a “high voltage backbone” of thousands of miles – is essential. This doesn’t mean that states shouldn’t have a say in lines or the environmental impacts of them, but a federal coordination of the largest lines is the most cost-effective way to build the infrastructure of the country.

The leaders of these renewable energy industries will be meeting with the Obama transition team and Congress to discuss moving their agenda forward.

The renewable sectors also hope for a change in the new administration’s energy advisory team. Gawell explained:

“We don’t need the leaders of yesterday’s fossil fuel technology running any advisory council. It needs to be the leaders of tomorrow’s energy. But we can’t get lost in more studies and more meetings. It’s time for action and we can’t discount getting things done.”

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