Renewable energy leaders respond to election results

Barack Obama

Several renewable energy leaders have voiced their approval over the re-election of President Barack Obama and renewable energy advocates who won races in the House.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said that solar power has seen tremendous growth since Obama took office, increasing by 400 percent – from 1,100 MW in 2008 to 5,700 MW currently. In addition, the Obama Administration enacted a policy allowing solar installations for the first time on public lands and set a goal to permit 10 gigawatts of additional renewable energy projects on public lands by the end of 2012, “which has been a great driver of this growth.”

Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said that several “wind champions” were re-elected to Congress, including Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Steve King (R-IA) and Tom Latham (R-IA), and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). “Swing states such as Iowa, Colorado, Michigan and Ohio with numerous wind farms as well as wind factories went for President Obama, whose campaign took the position that the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) should be extended.”

Now that the election is over, Bode said the wind industry remains confident that the PTC will be granted an extension during the ensuing lame-duck session. “The thought that (Washington) would allow the economy to be so drastically impacted until next year is not a reasonable assessment.”

To date, the U.S. wind industry has already lost about 4,000 jobs due to the PTC being set to expire on Dec. 31, Bode said. The scenario of the industry seeking for an extension to the tax credit during the lame-duck session is not an unfamiliar one, she said. However, the stakes are greater this time than they were a few years ago, since a much higher portion (about 70 percent) of wind power parts are now being manufactured domestically.

Jim Ivany, president of Bechtel’s Renewable Power business group, has witnessed renewable energy growth over the last few years through the construction of BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar thermal project. “There’s a direct correlation between a continued positive policy on renewable energy and jobs. Bechtel has been building power plants of all kinds for over 60 years, but never have we had more activity in the renewable space than right now.”

So what’s next? Perhaps the renewable energy industry’s greatest desire now is to see more permanent policies established in order to further spur long-term clean energy growth.

“We’ve all seen growth in the last four or five years, but let’s have some bipartisanship on renewable energy and longer-term incentives for all of our technologies to really see the growth and potential that’s out there,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association.

“Policy certainty is crucial to continue the growing role of solar in America’s energy mix,” Resch said. “Stable policy frameworks at the federal and state level, including maintaining and expanding commitments to renewable energy initiatives, spur and leverage private sector investments in the solar industry to meet our nation’s future energy needs.”

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