The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Renewable Energy Review: United States

Developers, manufacturers, investors and other renewable energy industry stakeholders need to know where the next big market is going to be so that they can adjust their business decisions accordingly.

Election Polarizes Energy Debate

The results of the presidential election were always going to play a significant role in shaping the future of the renewables sector in the US. The issue of energy — hotly debated throughout the election campaign and catalyzed by Hurricane Sandy-emerged as a highly divisive topic. President Barack Obama favored an “all of the above” approach in which clean technologies play a starring role. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, relegated renewables to the bench in favor of more traditional fuels, making clear his intention to remove subsidies on clean energy and help the oil and gas industry make the US energy independent by 2020.

The re-election of Obama on 6 November is inevitably, therefore, a huge relief for the country’s clean energy sector. Electricity generated from renewables has increased by almost three-quarters since Obama took office, and in the nine months to September, renewable installations represented 43.8% of all new generating capacity in the country.

However, Obama’s victory does not hide the fact that energy policy remained a polarizing issue throughout the campaign, perhaps reinforced by the 50:50 split in the popular vote. There is therefore no reason to expect a dramatic turnaround in the Administration’s ability to pass energy legislation. Notwithstanding the pivotal role of the election, however, it may be public opinion itself, and not just in the polls, which turns out to be the real driver of the country’s energy sector.

Nationwide polls have increasingly suggested that Americans in favor of a reduced dependence on oil and the development of a sector with the potential to generate new jobs. In the face of the most widespread drought since 1956, there have been calls to increase focus on clean energy sources such as wind and solar that require less water than conventional power. The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is also likely to bring the issue of climate change to the forefront of public opinion; while rebuilding the infrastructure across the worst hit areas will inevitably be the focus in the short term, the medium-to long-term implications of the disaster may empower US citizens in re-shaping the country’s energy policy.

However, there is still some way to go. In August, the Obama Administration and the Environment Protection Agency suffered a significant defeat when the US appeals court overturned a ruling forcing coal power plants to reduce harmful emissions. In September, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed the “No More Solyndras Act,” which blocks federal loan guarantees for clean energy projects, and the “Stop the War on Coal Act” which seeks to remove regulations on the coal industry. While neither bill is likely to pass through the Democrat-led Senate or escape a White House veto with Obama at the helm, it has undoubtedly given a boost to those factions backing traditional energy sources.

Mixed Renewables News Elsewhere

The Office of Management and Budget has announced it will expedite the approval of seven solar and wind energy projects across four western states, totaling almost 5 GW. Projects such as the 3 GW Chokecheery/Sierra Madre wind farm in Wyoming and the 750 MW McCoy solar park in California will benefit from “a government-wide effort to make the permitting and review process ... more efficient and effective.” 

Q3 also saw the US army issue a Request for Proposals for its initial procurement of US$7 billion (€5.4 billion) worth of renewable energy capacity via a series of 30-year contracts. 

However, international relations this quarter looked less rosy. In late August, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce concluded that six renewable energy projects in the US are in breach of World Trade Organization rules as a result of illegal subsidies, and has threatened to take legal action if these are not removed.

Uncertainty Over Wind Tax Credit Remains

The election debates have revealed very different views on the extension of the PTC, a wind-specific tax credit that has played a key role in driving growth in the sector. Obama sees wind energy as a key economic driver and is openly backing the extension of the PTC beyond 2012, while Romney opposes the credit and believes the wind sector is mature enough to survive.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has forecast that the US wind industry could lose up to 37,000 jobs if the PTC is not extended, and claims 10,000 posts have already disappeared as a result of the uncertainty. Indeed, Vestas has already cut a fifth of its US jobs this year. 

In August, the US Senate Finance Committee passed a bill extending both the PTC and the investment tax credit (ITC) by a year, the latter supporting offshore wind projects. However, a full Senate vote will not take place before the election and passage through the House will be more tricky. 

The bill also amended the eligibility criteria for the ITC, with projects qualifying from the start of construction rather than service commencement. This is expected to be a big boost to the offshore sector if passed. In other offshore news, Q3 saw the country’s first offshore wind farm, the 468MW Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, receive crucial planning approval that should enable construction to begin next year. 

Early October saw the US entangled in yet another legal dispute with China, this time over the President’s decision to block the acquisition and development of a wind farm by Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. due to the site being near a US naval facility. The decision, which is being challenged by Ralls, is the first foreign investment to be blocked on national security grounds in 22 years.

For more information on renewable energy development in the United States, contact the report's authors Michael Bernier and Dorian Hunt.

Lead image: US flag via Shutterstock

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


offshore wind

Hitachi Plans to Add Production Line for Offshore Wind Parts

Chisaki Watanabe, Bloomberg Hitachi Ltd. plans to expand its reach into the market for offshore wind projects by adding a production line to make...
Renewable energy

Leading US ICT Companies Renewables Use at 14%, and Growing

Andrew Burger Electricity consumption in the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry is growing rapidly. An...
Wind farms

Western: Streamlined Environmental Review Process for Wind Farms in Midwest ‘Takes Effect Right Away’

Jennifer Delony Western in an Aug. 26 record of decision (ROD) adopted a standardized process for collecting information and evaluati...

NextEra Commits to Hawaii’s Clean Power Goal, Local Management

Lynn Doan, Bloomberg NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. made 50 new commitments as part of their proposal to merge ...


Fronius Shifting the Limits in Solar-Plus: It’s not just about products, it’s about solutions.

Fronius USA, who just recently launched the all-new Fronius SnapINverter line this past...

IREC Announces Changes in Regulatory Team

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a not-for-profit organization which for...

IREC Awarded New Funding to Advance Digital Credentials

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) proudly announces funding for an innovat...

$100 Discount on 5-day Advanced PV Project Experience Workhop

Upcoming 5-day Workshops: Nov. 7 - 11 Feb. 6 - 10


NY Gov. Cuomo Pledges to Create Carbon Market use Solar, Wind to reduce Climate Change

This week former Vice President Al Gore joined with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to sign the Under 2 MOU, a directi...
clean energy

In Clean Energy, The Truth Matters

A group of about 20 protesters gathered outside the Sheraton in Burlington, Vt., early on Oct. 8 as attendees arrived...

Industry Focus: Cleantech: 1366 Technologies joins Solarcity in New York

1366 is set to build a factory just up the road (OK, it is a long road – NYS Thruway) from Solarcity.  The...



Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Doing Business in Europe – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

There is now 128.8 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU (appro...

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...


Sell Through Hypothesis

You first learned to hypothesize, or make educated guesses, in grade sch...

Vacancy? No Problem!

Have you ever tried to sell an efficiency product or service to a prospe...

Final Program Now Available for GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal...

GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo - Final Program f...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now