Goat Farming or Renewable Energy?

I have not seen an analysis of what President Obama really plans to do for renewable energy. I would like to know. I had hoped to work on one renewable energy project before I retired to goat farming. So far it looks like goat farming will get here first. How much does he plan to put on the table and in what time frame? I am particularly interested in solar. — Jim T., Texas and Arkansas


Jim, Do not go to the goat farm yet — the world is changing right before our very eyes! Clean energy continues to be a major focus of President Obama and was mentioned in the President’s message before a joint session of Congress in late February. Ken Bossong of the Sustainable Energy Coalition captured these three quotes:

….”We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy, yet we import more oil today than ever before.

….Over the next two years, this [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

….That is why, even as it cuts back on programs we don’t need, the [Fiscal Year 2010] budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care and education.”

The $750 billion+ Stimulus Bill, with $18 billion worth of energy efficiency and renewable energy tax benefits and enhancements also had included:

Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs). The bill authorizes an additional $1.6 billion of new clean renewable energy bonds to finance facilities that generate electricity from the following resources: wind, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal, small irrigation, hydropower, landfill gas, marine renewables, and trash combustion facilities. This $1.6 billion authorization will be subdivided into thirds: 1/3 will be available for qualifying projects of state/local/tribal governments; 1/3 for qualifying projects of public power providers; and 1/3 for qualifying projects of electric cooperatives. This proposal is estimated to cost $578 million over 10 years.

Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds. The bill authorizes an addition $2.4 billion of qualified energy conservation bonds to finance State, municipal and tribal government programs and initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would also clarify that qualified energy conservation bonds may be issued to make loans and grants for capital expenditures to implement green community programs. The bill also clarifies that qualified energy conservation bonds may be used for programs in which utilities provide ratepayers with energy-efficient property and recoup the costs of that property over an extended period of time. This proposal is estimated to cost $803 million over 10 years.

And last week the House Appropriations Committee even upped the ante by passing a $33.3 billion Energy & Water Appropriations Bill (as part of the Omnibus Appropriations) of which $27 billion goes to the U.S. Department of Energy, $2.5 billion more than last year. The big winners are energy efficiency and renewable energy and the highlights are below:

Department of Energy: $27 billion, $2.5 billion above 2008 to build on efforts in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Package to conserve and produce clean, efficient, American energy.  Specifically:

  • Solar Energy: $175 million for research, development and demonstration projects to make solar energy more affordable.
  • Biofuels: $217 million for grants to improve production of alternative fuels such as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.
  • Vehicle Technology: $273 million to collaborate with industry to improve fuel efficiency with better
    batteries and engines that burn clean fuel.
  • Energy Efficient Buildings: $140 million to research conservation technologies for buildings and industry to reduce energy demand.
  • Industrial Technologies: $90 million to help businesses improve energy efficiency.
  • Water Power: $40 million to research new ways of generating power from flowing water.
  • Weatherization Grants: $200 million for insulation and energy conservation measures to reduce utility bills for low-income families.
  • Innovative Technology Loan Guarantees: Extends loan guarantee authority for Innovative Technology, and includes $18.5 billion in loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

The industry trade group Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) further explained, “The House Appropriations Committee released its version of the 2009 Omnibus spending bill Monday. It designates $175 million for solar energy, including $30 million for concentrating solar power. This is approximately $5 million more than was included in last year’s Omnibus, but is short of SEIA’s policy goal of $250 million. The Building Technologies program, which includes solar heating and cooling activities, is budgeted at $140 million, but specific funding for the solar heating and cooling program was not reported.”

Expect a similar approach from the Senate Appropriations Committee soon. I stated earlier that the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), is “the single largest clean energy bill in history.” The Appropriations Bill, that should be passed shortly, just adds to this Act.

Now we need to all be guarded that lots of funding doesn’t mean results — so those of us that track government clean energy programs at the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Interior and EPA need to be ever vigilante. But I must say that Congress and the President have essentially provided the wish list regarding tax and appropriations.

We’ll wait for later this year to see if they can muster the votes for the necessary regulatory changes to enact national interconnection standards for the electric grid, a national renewable energy and efficiency portfolio standard that not only has teeth but ensures a broad energy portfolio of options for consumers and a greenhouse gas emissions bill that doesn’t look like a hedge fund ponzi scheme and is more transparent and directed than some of the muddled cap and trade proposals we have seen.

But be assured, the future looks bright for the clean energy manufacturers, distributors, installers, financiers and most importantly, American consumers.

Scott Sklar of the Washington, DC-based, The Stella Group, Ltd. which is a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies. Sklar was also appointed in April 2007 to the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy & Technology (NACEPT) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition. He also serves on several clean energy national non-profit Boards of Directors.

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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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