Wind Industry Fires Back, Calls for RES

A group of wind energy executives as well as the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association called on the U.S. Congress today to quickly enact a strong federal renewable energy standard in order to save American jobs. They also stated that they would fight the recently introduced Schumer legislation that could cripple the industry.

In a press conference, Denise Bode, CEO, AWEA, Donald Furman, Senior Vice President, Iberdrola Renewables, John W. Grabner, Executive Director, Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company Inc., and Ned Hall, Executive Vice President, AES Wind Generation explained that passing a national RES is crucial to maintaining and creating more jobs in the U.S.

John Grabner of Ohio-based Cardinal Fastener explained how his company has gone through a complete retooling in order to sell into the wind turbine industry.  He said that orders from turbine manufacturers have already boosted the company’s revenues by 20%.  But demand is slipping, he said. “The RES has 3 main points to it: jobs, jobs, and jobs,” he said.

GE has seen its turbine manufacturing business increase 6 fold and the domestic content of its turbines increase to just over 50% since 2005, according to a representative from the company at the press conference.  An RES will help ensure that demand is steady and will attract more supply chain manufactures to set up shop in the U.S.

Made in the USA?

The panel had strong reactions to the recently introduced Schumer legislation that would restrict any renewable energy project that uses less than 100% U.S. made components from receiving tax payer subsidies and grants.

If you have a discretionary process in place, said Bode, it causes projects not to get financing.  Even the discussion of it has had a “chilling effect” on the market, she said.

The panel said that developers and manufactureres want to purchase U.S. made parts because the cost of shipping parts overseas can be as high as 20% of the total project cost.

But manufacturers are reluctant to open facilities in the U.S. because the policy environment is seen as unstable, according to the panel, which is why they believe that passing a strong national RES is key right now.

Don Furman of Iberdrola explained that the U.S. “owns this business, most of the technology was invented here!” He said that for 25 years the wind industry has had no stable policy support and as a result of that, manufacturing went overseas.  And while “that has turned around a bit,” with several manufacturers opening major plants in the U.S. in the past year, the country still doesn’t have the full supply chain of U.S. built parts in place.

Furman believes that if the country had had an RES at the time that the recovery act was passed, even more manufacturing jobs would have been created.  Overall, the industry says 85,000 wind energy jobs were created through the stimulus.

“It would be tragedy if the growth stopped because we don’t have an RES,” said Furman.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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