“The combination of the federal PTC and state RPS policies has shielded wind developers from the basic supply and demand forces present in a healthy competitive market. As a result, we are fast-tracking the construction of expensive renewable resources that are variable, operating largely off-peak, off-season and located long distances from where the energy is needed.”
AWEA's CEO Tom Kiernan bellyached last week that his people were exhausted by the "boom-bust" behavior sparked each time the industry faced possible withdrawal of the PTC. He showed no remorse that big wind was still economically impotent despite decades of public handouts meant to stimulate self-growth. Instead he dug in and insisted the PTC be extended.
Proponents of wind energy insist that adding renewable energy to the grid reduces the market price of electricity by displacing resources with substantially higher operating (fuel) costs. Various studies have been performed that model the "price suppression" effect of wind and solar on ratepayer bills, however, assessing the actual impacts of an operating project on rates has proven more elusive.
Stop supporting harmful projects,start protecting people and fixing the problems
This year, the wind industry added just 1.6 megawatts of new operating capacity in the United States, a 0.0027% increase over 2012 installations.
"Ignoring how competitive markets operate-and pretending that wind energy is exempt from the basic rules of economics-will not change the fact that windpower is an expensive, unpredictable resource that cannot compete without enormous public hand-outs. If the PTC were permitted to expired today, the wind industry might be forced to increase its efficiencies and lower project costs, but the effect on electricity prices at large would likely go unnoticed."
Last month, New Hampshire's Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) disapproved Antrim Wind, a 30-megawatt wind energy facility proposed along a remote and environmentally sensitive ridgeline in rural Antrim, NH. After eleven days of evidentiary hearings and three days of public deliberations, the Committee ruled that the ten monster turbines, each standing 492-feet tall, would pose a significant impact on aesthetics with no satisfactory means of mitigating the effect.
New England state RPS policies represent some of the most aggressive and costly programs in the country. By 2021, over 20% of the electricity sold retail in the region must come from renewables. Given a robust mix of natural resources, particularly wood biomass, and some hydroelectric, meeting the state mandates, while tough, is possible. But recent legislative and regulatory proposals altering the Massachusetts and Connecticut RPS programs now threaten the balance in favor of building new wind power facilities which could lead to an energy policy war between the states.
This week, the US Department of Energy announced it was revisiting the conclusions of its 2008 report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030 .
After 20 years of tax credits, the production tax credit (PTC) was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is convinced he's found the right formula for ensuring that his state becomes the first to site a wind facility off its coastline. Last week Maryland's House quietly approved HB 226. The Senate version (SB 275), although still in Committee, is also expected to pass despite much controversy over cost and risks to captive ratepayers–and back-door cronyism for developers and other special interests.
New Hampshire's RPS draining the State's economy
It took a last minute change to a highly controversial bill and the last vote of the 112th Congress for Big Wind to eke out one more extension to the Production Tax Credit (PTC). With the dust now settling, it's worth examining what happened.
“The sheer ridiculousness of the [six-year, front loaded PTC extension] outraged Congressional members and may well have changed the debate. It’s NO coincidence that within 24-hours of AWEA’s poorly received proposal, Denise Bode bailed. A move that sudden suggests the industry thinks it’s better off without her and probably without AWEA’s inflexible, out-of-touch campaign.”
Since 2009, the State of New Hampshire has reviewed three large-scale wind energy facilities totaling 177 megawatts. In each case, the project proponents engaged University of New Hampshire Professor and economist Ross Gittell and his research assistant, Matt Magnusson, to conduct economic impact studies to show the long-term (20-year) benefits the projects would deliver to the local area.
We wish to thank William P. Short III* for his invaluable contribution to this editorial.
The United States is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. If Congress and the White House are unable to reach agreement on spending by January 1, crushing tax increases and draconian budget cuts will go into effect sending the country's already weakened economy into another destructive recession.
Last month, unity was shattered within the wind industry when energy-giant Exelon Corporation broke ranks with other renewable-energy developers and asked Congress to let the production tax credit (PTC) expire in December. Exelon rightfully argued that the subsidy was distorting competitive wholesale energy markets and causing financial harm to other, more reliable clean energy sources.
This month, a coalition of brand name corporations sent Congressional leaders a letter urging extension of the wind production tax credit ('PTC'). It was the second such letter sent this year signed by many of the same companies and with the same message: Failure to extend the PTC will raise consumer electricity prices and harm the bottom lines of companies who purchase renewable energy.
1. Bald Eagle killed at U.S. Wildlife Refuge. In March, a dead bald eagle was found below a small 10-kilowatt wind turbine at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Rock Hall, Md. Cause of death: blunt force trauma.