Hands down, the American people support the development of clean, affordable, homegrown wind power. Recent polls consistently show that nearly nine out of ten voters – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – believe increasing the amount of energy the nation gets from wind is a good idea. That's because wind power doesn't just generate electricity. It powers economic development. It adds a new source of steady income to family farmers' and ranchers' bottom line. It opens the doors of factories previously mothballed. It sends clean, home-grown energy to our homes and businesses, while protecting family budgets and small businesses from volatile price spikes. No wonder Americans want more wind power.
According to the Bush Administration's U.S. Department of Energy report, "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply," wind can play a major role in meeting America's increasing demand for electricity, while supporting 500,000 American jobs. Having 20% of the nation's electricity come from wind power is feasible with today's technology, the report found, but the right policies will need to enable the industry to grow rapidly.
AWEA seeks the following federal level support to grow demand for wind power:
Predictable tax policies
The wind industry seeks long-term tax policies, lasting more than just a few years, to provide consistency and market certainty. The federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) – the primary financial policy for the wind industry since its inception in 1992 – has been extended mostly in one- and two-year intervals, and even allowed to expire on occasion. More information on how predictable policies will improve investment in the wind industry is available in AWEA's PTC fact sheet and in the American Wind Power brochure.
Current status: CONGRESS EXTENDS THE PTC & ITC
The American Taxpayer Relief Act was passed by Congress on January 1, 2013 and signed into law by the President on January 2nd. The legislation includes the following components relevant to the U.S. wind industry.
*An extension of the Production Tax Credit for projects that start construction prior to 1/1/2014
*An extension of the Investment Tax Credit for projects that start construction prior to 1/1/2014
*An extension of bonus depreciation for projects that are placed in service prior to 1/1/2014
AWEA Members can access an FAQ on extension of the tax credits and recording of the AWEA Teletown Hall Event on January 2, 2013 on the extension of the tax credits by logging into the AWEA Member Center with your email address.
Under present law, the PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents/kilowatt-hour for the production of electricity from utility-scale wind turbines. The PTC Fact Sheet, along with these graphics, illustrates the importance the PTC.
Strong national renewable electricity standard (RES)
A renewable electricity standard (RES), also known as a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is a policy that sets hard targets for renewable energy in the near- and long-term to diversify our electricity supply, reduce pollution, conserve water and save consumers money. Today, 29 states have renewable electricity standards and seven states have renewable energy goals, but an RES does not exist at the federal level. More information is available in AWEA's national RES fact sheet.
Current status: In the 112th Congress, Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) has introduced S. 559 and Senator Udall (D-NM) has introduced S. 741, both of which call for the establishment of a 25% RES by 2025. In previous Congresses, national RES proposals have been passed by the Senate on three occasions and by the House of Representatives on one occasion.
Recently there have been proposals to establish a clean renewable electricity standard (CRES). For example, Senator Bingaman (D-NM) has introduced S. 2146, The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012. A CRES would establish mandatory targets to obtain a certain percentage of our nation's electricity from renewable and other clean energy sources. Any CRES policy must include a structure and targets that deploy wind energy generation above a business-as-usual scenario. Also, a CRES policy should allow state renewable or clean renewable standards to go above and beyond the targets established at the federal level.
Favorable transmission policies
The U.S. Department of Energy has identified transmission limitations as the largest obstacle to realizing the economic, environmental, and energy-security benefits of obtaining 20% of our electricity from wind power. Currently, about 200,000 megawatts of proposed wind projects, more than enough to almost 15% of our electricity needs, are waiting in line to connect to the grid because there is not enough transmission capacity to carry the electricity they would produce. An upgraded grid would allow plentiful domestic sources of renewable energy to be put to use powering our homes and even our vehicles, reducing our fossil-fuel dependence as well as energy prices. More information is available in AWEA's Building a Modern Power Grid and Transmission and Consumer Savings fact sheets, as well as on the transmission and grid integration page.
Current status: On July 21st, 2011, FERC approved Order 1000 which reforms transmission cost allocation. In the ruling, FERC addressed two of the three biggest transmission infrastructure issues — regional planning and cost allocation. Rather than imposing new cost allocation rules and planning requirements that would apply nationwide, the final rule allows them to be developed on a regional level pursuant to general guidelines and principles outlined in the rule. All FERC-jurisdictional transmission providers, including RTOs/ISOs, will have 12 months from the effective date to submit compliance filings showing how they comply or will comply with most of the proposed requirements and principles. See AWEA's press release.
Prudent siting policies
Resolving wind power project siting issues is an important part of expanding wind energy development. The principles applied to wind energy siting issues must promote efficient, fair and open permitting processes at the federal, state and local levels. Project siting guidelines must address wildlife and habitat issues, military and non-military infrastructure, and community concerns. Given all the potential benefits of wind energy development, the wind industry's impacts should be considered in context with other forms of energy production and treated accordingly during the policy making process. More information is available on AWEA's siting policy page.
Current status: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), as part of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), has oversight of regulations governing the development of renewable energy projects on public lands, but their policies and regulations can also have direct impacts on development of private lands. While the FWS' mission is to protect wildlife and their habitats, DOI has multiple missions, one of which is to promote renewable energy development on public lands.
Over the course of five years, the wind energy industry, wildlife conservation organizations, Native American tribes, and federal and state regulators worked to develop voluntary land-based Wind Energy Guidelines to ensure that wind farms minimize impacts on wildlife. The final version of these guidelines was published in March 2012. By supporting and using the guidelines, the wind energy industry is voluntarily agreeing to be held to a higher standard for wildlife protection than any other industry in the country, and even beyond what is required by federal law. AWEA, along with 40 individual member companies, including project developers, utilities, and turbine manufacturers signed a letter to the FWS, showing the collective commitment to a process that represents a reasonable balance between the need to deploy wind energy and addressing the relatively modest impacts associated with development and operation of wind facilities.
The FWS continues to work on developing a final Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance that is intended to facilitate the issuance of eagle take permits under the 2009 Eagle Permit Rule. The initial Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance was released by FWS on February 8, 2011. AWEA and its member companies submitted extensive comments recommending changes to the Guidance document and permitting process on May 19, 2011. At present, the FWS is in the process of finalizing the second draft of the Guidance. It is unclear when the document will be publicly released, and if it will be final at that time, or if FWS will seek further commentsl. Most recent communications from FWS indicate that August 2012 is a target date for availability of the next draft. Once the next version is released, AWEA staff will work with the AWEA Siting Committee to analyze the document and identify any issues that need further attention.