Wind energy industry descends on Capitol Hill to push for passage of a national renewable energy standard as the best way to 'buy American' in the long run.
More than one hundred wind energy representatives are traveling to Washington D.C. this week for a special lobbying effort to push for a national renewable energy standard. Industry representatives will hold over 70 meetings with lawmakers on Wednesday, March 10 in an event dubbed, “Wind Power on Capitol Hill”, to urge passage of a national renewable energy standard that will give the wind energy industry the kind of stable policy foundation for long-term industry growth.
The renewable energy standard has become the preferred policy mechanism in the U.S. for spurring commercial-scale wind energy development, with states like California and Colorado leading the way. Yet while most states have some sort of renewable energy standard on the books, the lack of a unified national standard means that a handful of states are way behind the curve, having developed few renewable energy projects of any considerable scale.
“We need to drive demand in a stable, predictable way,” said Vic Abate, Vice President for Renewables, GE Energy, the largest supplier of wind turbines in the U.S. “For the jobs to grow the renewable electricity standard is critical.”
But, as Chris Madison points out at the American Wind Energy Association's Into the Wind Blog, it won't be smooth sailing for the wind industry on Capitol Hill this week. Madison writes: "Armed with a series of specious and superficial reports, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York—the home of GE and a state that is eight in total wind installations—has called on Congress to suspend any stimulus funds to companies that use foreign parts in their turbines."
The report found that as much as 75% of clean energy grant money in the economic stimulus package passed in 2009 will not go to American companies.
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jon Tester of Montana asked the secretary to put a 'buy American' provision on the clean energy grant program because it is doing very little to create jobs here--and now--in the U.S.
"We cannot sit idly by while China races to the forefront of clean energy production at the expense of U.S. manufacturing, U.S. jobs, and U.S. energy independence," said Senator Sharred Brown (D-Ohio).
But both the wind energy and federal government are not taking the criticism lying down, rather, they are insisting that the renewable energy grant money creates the kind of long-term market infrastructure and industry stability that the renewables sector needs to take root in the U.S.
Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association said, "A national RES will result not just in new installations, but also in new manufacturing. The RES is the most important buy-American policy we can do.”
And the feds are taking a similar position. “The Recovery Act has doubled the pace of investment in America’s wind industry — including helping attract more than $10 billion of foreign investment to create U.S. jobs,” Stephanie Mueller, news media secretary at the Energy Department, recently told the New York Times.
“Manufacturers are chomping at the bit to come to the U.S.," said Donald Furman, Senior Vice President, Iberdrola Renewables. "And it would be a tragedy if this investment were to stop. The RES is the missing link.” Furman added that the discussion about the 'buy American' clause is having "a chilling effect on existing American jobs."
What do you think? Should there be 'buy American' clauses in these clean energy grants or do you buy the argument that the long term result will be more wind industry jobs in the U.S. if there is no such requirement?
Follow Tim Hurst on twitter @ecopolitologist