From left to right: Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Governor Chet Culver of Iowa and AWEA's CEO, Denise Bode.
These governors and 22 others form the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, which Governor Culver chairs. They're focused on creating green jobs and pushing Congress and the administration to move proactively on renewable energy policies, like a renewable energy standard (RES).
The governors discussed the great work their states are doing with renewables, from tax incentives to a technically trained workforce to outreach internationally. The biggest marketer by far was Governor Granholm of Michigan:
I was about ready to do business there after this session.
"We're playing offense in Michigan!"
"We have to go from a Rust Belt to a Green Belt!"
"I'm meeting with Obama administration officials this week and I'm going to talk to them about a Michigan company putting a wind turbine on the White House!"
"Go to MichiganAdvantage.org to learn how great it is to do business in Michigan - we are willing, ready and able to do business with you!"
The Governors agreed that good renewable energy policy is where the changes have to start, but transmission is universally critical. Culver has worked with the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative (which includes the governors of MN, WI, SD and ND) to begin regional transmission planning.
There's also a need to move faster: there are 300,000 MW of wind projects waiting in queue to get permits. That amount alone could get the U.S. to 25% of its energy from wind. The red tape has to be trimmed.
The issue of siting is a big issue for transmission as well. As Governor Doyle pointed out, "This is a very difficult issue when you get to the ground and have to decide where the lines go." Regional and federal planning is needed, but it can't be a case where the federal government comes in and says, "These lines are going through your backyard." That will only harm the reputation of the wind industry. The balance, as Granholm added, is the need for community buy-in while also giving some certainty to the wind industry that projects will move forward.
The Governors also discussed the cost of renewables. Governor Culver believed the more renewables produced, the better deal it is for taxpayers, noting that Iowa is one of the top wind producers in the nation and its largest utility hasn't had to raise rates since 1995.
Governor Doyle: "If you compare wind to the cost of a old coal plant, the old plant does better. If you compare wind to a new coal plant it’s about a wash. And when you factor in the cost of carbon – we which we all know is going to come eventually – then there’s no contest and wind wins."
Strickland pointed out that we need to factor in externalities as well, like the cost of maintaining an oil pipeline or the cost of posting our armed forces overseas to protect our energy interests. "Those who are concerned about the cost of renewables should take the larger view of what it’s really costing us now to live as we’re living and to rely on our current energy sources."
Concluding the session, Governor Culver encouraged state and regional policymakers to be coordinated when communicating to the federal government: "...that's probably the most important thing for renewables, to have a coordinated ask and message. To make progress, we must be asking for the same thing from government agencies, the Congress, and the President."