The headline here presents the simple goal for a Renewable Electricity Standard or RES, one echoed by the American Wind Energy Association and to some extent, 29 state governors. There is, however, only one tiny problem with the RES: It is not yet national policy.
About a year ago, five CEOs from wind-industry manufacturers sat on a stage at WINDPOWER 2009 and in the course of a Q&A, frequently remarked that a national policy, an RES, was one piece of legislation that would provide a solid target for the wind industry. Since then, Washington has dithered with issues it deems more important than a vibrant economy and energy independence.
The 29 governors have proposed their own RES and to the White House. Their targets in a nutshell are 20% renewable power by 2020, new transmission lines, streamlined permitting for offshore installations, and energy conservation.
Despite tepid objections by some, conservation will have to be part of an RES. It makes no sense to encourage production without encouraging wise use of energy. Conservation levels have been added to many state RES goals because some believe its projects (new furnaces, A/C units, and insulation) means more jobs than adding renewable energy alone.
Debates in Washington on targets, time frames, and how to encourage conservation have made the goal of a national standard elusive. The House passed a bill last year with a 20% requirement by 2020. A Senate bill: 15% by 2021. The prospects of a national RES dim further when a recent report found a large percent of RE funds going to foreign companies.
“We’ve had too much stop-and-go government policy,” said Wesley Clark, VP Director at EMergya Wind Technologies at Windpower 2009. “We need to stabilize policy through the period that the renewable energy standard is passed into law, and keep the capital markets stable for four to six years. We will, in all likelihood, be spending more on electricity in the long run if we don’t act now and enact enhanced renewable portfolio standards and take more aggressive action on energy efficiency.”
Federal assistance for new industries is not new. President Lincoln recognized the value of a connected nation and so funded the transcontinental railroad. The nation benefited greatly from the Federally funded space race, and commerce was unharmed by the interstate highway system. Why treat the great potential in the relatively new wind industry differently?
President Kennedy stated the most famous clear and simple goal: Put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. It’s time for another president to state a clear and simple goal that will kick off another national effort, one for energy independence and a vibrant economy. WPE
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