Project Development, Wind Power

U.S. Environmental Group Calls for Renewables

The administration of President George Bush must dramatically increase its funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency, according to a national group.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-06-27 [] U.S. PIRG says the federal government must ensure that a significant portion of the country’s energy comes from renewables and that there must be effective standards to increase automobile fuel economy and reduce power plant pollution. In testimony provided to the U.S. Department of Energy public hearings in Washington, the public interest group criticized Bush’s energy plan. “President Bush’s energy plan is dirty, dangerous, and doesn’t deliver for consumers,” says the group’s lobbyist Anna Aurilio. “It’s a recipe for more drilling, more spilling, more asthma attacks, more nuclear waste, and more global warming pollution.” “Americans deserve a smarter, cleaner energy future,” she says. “The President can provide a clean, reliable energy plan that would save consumers money, while at the same time protecting the public’s health.” Bush’s proposal calls for the construction of 1,300 new power plants to meet expected future demand, yet a recent DOE report says 60 percent of future electricity demand could be met by increasing efficiency and the production of renewable energy. The public and Congress are dissatisfied with the plan, and she notes that the recent DOE public hearing in Denver heard only one person out of 88 speak in support of the plan. DOE must increase funding for renewables, says U.S. PIRG, because federal programs have cut the cost of wind energy to be competitive with natural gas. Bush proposes to cut funding for renewable research from $376 to $186 million, and U.S. PIRG says federal funding should increase to $750 million a year for research and development of solar, wind and geothermal. Bush should also promote a renewable energy standard that requires 20 percent of U.S. electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. U.S. PIRG does not support hydropower or municipal solid waste incineration. “Renewable energy production has moved from its infancy to a significant source of power with the potential to grow exponentially in the next few years and beyond,” says the testimony. “After decades of developing the technology and identifying the resources, we can put this knowledge into action and significantly change the energy mix.” Many wind, solar thermal and geothermal projects could be developed at 5.5¢/kWh, which is “close enough” to the 4.5¢/kWh cost of generation from coal and natural gas, it explains. The environmental and health benefits of shifting to renewables, as well as lower operating costs for power plants, means that “stimulating renewable energy production is a more sensible long-term investment than propping up traditional energy systems.” The group also recommends increased funding for energy efficiency, based on the analysis that every dollar invested in energy efficiency programs returns up to $42 in savings. Bush wants to cut funding for most energy efficiency programs by one third, but U.S. PIRG wants an increase of at least $170 million in the next fiscal year and it opposes funding for any program that subsidizes diesel engines. “Unfortunately, President Bush has proposed an energy plan that protects the polluters instead of the public,” says Aurilio. “We need a smarter, cleaner energy future that provides reliable power, protects the environment, and saves consumers money.” “The nation needs to make a policy choice this year that will determine our energy structure for the coming years and decades,” it concludes. “One path includes increased subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear power companies, weakened clean air protections, extending the lifetimes of nuclear plants, and drilling in many sensitive areas throughout the country. The other path starts now with our transition to smarter, cleaner energy sources by encouraging renewable energy development and committing ourselves to energy conservation and efficiency.” “As this second path would reduce damage to our health and the environment and would save us money in the long run, it would be irresponsible to ignore this opportunity and drive the country further into fossil fuel dependence and nuclear risk.”