AWEA Coverage Highlights Wind Power Issues

American Wind Energy Association Executive (AWEA) Director Randy Swisher welcomed attendees on March 29 to the Global WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition which is now currently wrapping up in Chicago, Ill. With over 3,500 attendees registered and 225 exhibitors, the event proved to be the largest of its kind ever held in the world.

Chicago, Illinois – April 1, 2004 [] In addition to Swisher, the opening plenary session featured Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle McSlarrow; Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, Director General of the German Environmental Ministry; the Deputy Consul-General of Investment of the British Consulate-General, New York, Alastair Newton, standing in for Stephen Timms, the U.K. Minister of Energy; and Vice Minister of the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Brazil Maurýcio Timno Tolmasquim. The speakers outlined their governments’ various policies to support renewable energy. Swisher was essentially optimistic about the future of the U.S. wind energy industry, but he stressed that the key to stable growth patterns was a stable government policy that supported renewable project development. The U.S. added nearly 1,700 MW of new wind power across the country last year. However, project development has come to a near halt this year because Congress has failed to extend the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) that expired at the end of last year. Swisher said that if the PTC were to be renewed, something close to 2,000 MW per year is a reasonable projection for the next few years, which means over $2 billion in investment annually and thousands of jobs in the wind industry. McSlarrow agreed that the outlook for wind power is optimistic and the AWEA target of 100,000 MW by 2020 is not unrealistic. In the electricity generation sector, McSlarrow emphasized the importance of technology diversity, especially as the prices for natural gas rise and remain volatile. “The days of $2 gas are over,” McSlarrow said. He agreed that wind is already reducing the price pressure on natural gas. Because wind and gas have complementary operational characteristics, wind can function in a utility’s portfolio as a hedge against future gas price volatility, he said. In the transportation sector, he stated that it is crucial for the nation to reduce its dependence on imported oil and touted the President’s proposal to increase fuel cell research in order to speed the transition to a hydrogen economy. McSlarrow said that he believes wind power could play a large role in supplying the electricity to produce the hydrogen needed for the fuel cell cars of the future. McSlarrow praised the research that various laboratories and initiatives within the Department of Energy are already doing to grow the wind industry market. He announced that DOE would open negotiations for 21 public-private partnerships in the second phase of the low wind speed technology research initiative. “The nation’s vast wind energy resources can play a much larger role in our energy supply portfolio,” he said. The low wind speed research projects will focus on technology improvements to make areas without the very best wind resource cost competitive. More on this project in the following story… McSlarrow also urged Congress to pass the energy bill that is currently before Congress in order to give the industry a consistent message for growth. One policy that McSlarrow said the American Administration cannot support is a government-mandated, enforceable renewable energy target, such as a federal renewables portfolio standard. His vision of a laissez-faire energy market was strongly contrasted with that of the European ministers, who stressed the importance of aggressive renewables targets to lower carbon emissions and reduce the threat of climate disruption. Hinrichs-Rahlwes said that Germany was proud of its record as the country with the largest installed wind power base, but welcomed competition from other countries in order to grow the overall renewables market. Germany now has an installed wind power capacity base of over 14,600 MW, providing 5.5% of the nation’s power. Hinrichs-Rahlwes estimated that 120,000 new jobs had been created in the German wind power industry. The German government has announced a goal to double the use of renewables by 2010, grow it to 20% by 2020, and to 50% by 2050. Hinrichs-Rahlwes put in a plug for the Renewables 2004 conference that is taking place in Bonn in June. He urged governments from around the world to come and take part in the conference and make significant renewables commitments as part of an international action plan. Newton opened his presentation by emphasizing that the U.K. takes climate change very seriously, saying it requires immediate action. The policy measures that the U.K. government has undertaken include raising its Renewables Obligation to 15.4% by 2015-16; and awarding site leases for a second round of offshore wind farm projects that have a potential total capacity of up to 7,200 MW, which would supply almost 7% of U.K. electricity. He also highlighted new U.K. wind projects such as a 60-MW offshore wind farm at North Hoyle, and two proposed land-based projects recently approved in Scotland. Timno Tolmasquim announced that Brazilian President Luiz Inýcio Squid Da Silva was to be signing a law on March 30 that authorized the state-owned electric utility Eletrobrýs to contract for 3,300 MW of new capacity from renewables: 1,100 MW each of wind power, biomass, and small hydro projects. The program is called the Program of Incentive to the Alternative Sources of Energia Elýtrica (PROINFA). The conference wrapped up yesterday at which point workers in the wind industry in some parts of Europe will carry on their work of installing new projects to meet their governments’ aggressive targets. Those in the wind industry in the U.S. will continue to wait for the Congress to extend the PTC before being able to commit to continued investments in rural America. Article courtesy of Kathy Belyeu, AWEA Communications
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