Wind Turbine Makers Lobby U.S. for Green Energy Mandates
Photo: AccionaWill the Wind Still Blow?Wind turbine makers think that the only way to keep their industry growing at a good rate is for the US government to impose a green energy mandate and require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources (like the wind). The federal stimulus money has helped keep things going, but looking ahead, orders for 2012 and beyond are said to be "extremely light".
From the WSJ:
A wind turbine "is a big piece of steel with rotating parts," said Andris Cukurs, chief executive of Suzlon's U.S. unit. "It is one of the few industries where you can absorb rust-belt workers." The industry's trade group said wind power added 35,000 jobs in the past year.
Numerous states already have passed renewable-electricity requirements, including California, where the governor last week signed an order requiring 33% of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.
But the wind industry insists that a national policy is needed to spur utilities to sign long-term deals for renewable energy. Without these long-term deals, wind farms can't get financing. And without wind-farm development, the thousands of jobs manufacturing high-tech blades, towers and other turbine parts could be in jeopardy.
What the industry is afraid of is a boom-bust cycle that would slow down the adoption of clean sources of energy.
Considering how many subsidies the fossil-fuel industry is getting, I think it's probably not too outrageous to at least try to level the playing field with them.
This could be more successfully achieved by removing subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels (starting with the most polluting, coal, and going down the list), but if that's not politically feasible, the lesser evil is probably to create a framework that makes things predictable for clean energy. Don't give subsidies for a couple years, then take it away, then give it again, then take it away. This is a capital-intensive industry and they won't be able to find financing if they're not sure what's over the horizon. I bet that smaller, but more predictable, subsidies could help more than big lumps of cash that go away after a short period of time.
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