Obama Rolls Out Clean Energy Plans
President Barack Obama’s leadership has catalyzed a global transition toward a clean energy economy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced. Specifically, from 2010-2015 alone, the U.S. invested more than $11 billion in international clean energy finance – including grant-based assistance, development finance and export credit – to support countries as they work to meet their growing energy needs and reduce carbon emissions.
At the same time, says the DOE, the U.S. has made research and development (R&D) a top priority – decreasing the cost of clean energy technologies substantially – and previously launched several initiatives to enhance universal access to cleaner energy:
- Establishing Mission Innovation (MI) with the leaders of 19 countries to accelerate innovation by doubling public investment in clean energy R&D to $30 billion over five years;
- Launching the Power Africa initiative, with a goal of doubling energy access in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, the U.S. government’s pledge to commit more than $7 billion in financial support for Power Africa has leveraged more than $52 billion in additional commitments from public- and private-sector partners; and
- Creating the Clean Energy Ministerial, which the U.S. has used to rally governments, industry and organizations to commit more than $1.5 billion to accelerate the deployment of clean energy globally.
Since 2010, says the DOE, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) has committed over $7.7 billion toward clean energy projects in 40 countries, with a total potential capacity of approximately 3.4 GW, including support for 18 off-grid energy project providers.
In the days following the U.S. election, Obama issued several initiatives to continue the global transition to zero- and low-carbon energy sources.
- Committing $125 million in OPIC financing for renewable energy projects in El Salvador and India;
- Announcing seven Innovation Challenges identified by MI member countries that highlight clean energy areas with the potential to play a significant role to achieve deep decarbonization;
- Creating a partnership among the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of State and the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to identify a pipeline of clean energy entrepreneurs in developing countries;
- Providing $4 million in awards to eight household solar firms under the Power Africa Scaling Off Grid Grand Challenge – a $36 million investment to empower entrepreneurs and investors to connect 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa to modern, clean and affordable electricity;
- Releasing a White House report on the state of the market for access to off-grid energy services and efficient appliances;
- Announcing more than $11 million raised, in partnership with other governments and development partners, for the deployment of efficient off-grid technologies globally through the Efficiency for Access Coalition;
- Launching a partnership with the philanthropic sector to bring more efficient appliances to rural Indian villages; and
- Supporting Africa’s first Solar Decathlon competition, which creates opportunities for university students to learn about and showcase solar energy technologies.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has announced that the U.S. will launch and lead a challenge focused on realizing zero emissions for fossil fuels through the Carbon Capture Innovation Challenge. In the coming year, the U.S. will coordinate and host a workshop to assess barriers to progress in realizing near-zero CO2 emissions and to identify the most promising areas of R&D interest.[adright zone=’190′]
In addition, Moniz has announced that the U.S. will co-lead, with Mexico, the Energy Materials Innovation Challenge to accelerate the innovation process for high-performance, low-cost clean energy materials.
The DOE’s Office of Science will also organize four workshops over the next 12-18 months to identify the basic research needs for electrical energy storage, catalysis, hydrogen at scale and solar energy use. The DOE says the outcomes of these workshops will be an important contribution to the broader technology R&D discussions taking place at selected Innovation Challenge workshops. MI members are invited to send experts in their field to participate in the DOE-organized workshops.
Okla.’s Mazzei Wants To Kill State’s Wind PTC
Oklahoma State Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, wants to do away with the state’s production tax credit (PTC) for wind power. Mazzei, who serves as the outgoing chairman of the Senate’s finance committee, recently addressed the Incentive Evaluation Commission in support of a report that examined the cost versus benefits of the state’s tax credits for wind.
According to a press release from the senator, a PFM report determined that the cost significantly exceeds the benefits of the program and recommends that the credit termination date be accelerated. Under current law, a wind farm must be placed in service before Jan. 1, 2021, in order to claim the credits. However, Mazzei says the credit should be discontinued as soon as 2017.
“In 2010, this credit cost Oklahoma $3.7 million, but as of 2015, the cost exceeded $100 million,” he says. “The whole goal of any tax incentive should be to generate economic benefits that are greater than the cost. When you look at the direct economic benefit from the wind power facilities in 2015, it was $78.4 million and produced only $17.1 million in tax revenue.
“When you take into account the fact that Oklahoma is looking at a budget shortfall of at least $600 million for fiscal year 2017, we clearly cannot afford to wait until 2021.”
Mazzei claims the tax credit program also lacks adequate protections, such as an annual cap. Furthermore, the PFM report documents that in 2014, 154 corporate interests took advantage of the program.
“This enormous corporate welfare is certainly not fair to the other 1.6 million tax filers in Oklahoma who sent their money to the state hoping for good schools, good roads and good law enforcement,” the press release states.
Mazzei says it is obvious the tax incentives have facilitated a significant amount of wind power in the state; however, in light of the cost versus the benefit, the significant budget constraints facing the state and the many unmet funding needs for core functions, the PTC needs to end sooner, the senator says.
“During the years the cost of this tax credit was skyrocketing, we were reducing education funding. Since 2009, K-12 funding is down $95 million, even though student enrollment is up by 40,000. We’re now 50th in the nation in teacher pay,” Mazzei adds. “But that’s not all. Healthcare costs for the state are increasing significantly every year. We don’t have enough highway patrol officers. Our prisons are severely understaffed. We still haven’t caught up on all our deficient roads and bridges.”
Thus, the senator says, “I strongly encourage every member of the 2017 legislature to read this report and support legislation to end the wind power tax credit in 2017.”
Congressman Reed Discusses ITC In N.Y.
As part of his continued efforts to fight for domestic energy security, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., recently paid a visit to United Wind’s turbine construction site on a local wind farm in Ripley, N.Y.
During the visit, Reed reviewed the construction of the turbines at the Knight Farm, as well as met with local employees and area leaders to discuss the importance of his bipartisan bill, the Technologies for Energy Security Act, which extends the investment tax credit (ITC).
The ITC encourages the use of residential and commercial wind electrical generation systems by offsetting some of the cost of installation. The congressman notes that by harnessing the power of the wind, families and small businesses can drive their utility costs down and protect the environment. Without the passage of the legislation, the tax credit will expire in 2016.
“We care about ensuring America’s energy security for the sake of the hardworking men and women from across our region and future generations,” says Reed. “It’s only right that we support local efforts to take advantage of innovative technologies that help meet our energy needs. These pioneers will lead the way and cultivate the investment we need to implement these technologies on a much wider scale.”[adleft zone=’190′]
Russell Tencer, founder and CEO of United Wind, says he was thrilled to host Congressman Reed.
“Distributed wind makes sense for homeowners, farmers and business owners who want to save money on their electricity bill, and it plays a small part in ensuring homegrown, on-site power generation for Americans,” Tencer says. “We are pleased to know that Congressman Reed is fighting for wind energy to play a key role in the future of how we power our country.”
“Using all available resources – especially our renewable resources, like the wind – to meet our energy needs is a critical part of our plan for America’s energy future,” adds Reed.
Last year, Reed issued his “Plan for America’s Energy future,” a comprehensive plan designed to create U.S. energy security. The plan focuses on using all available resources, modernizing energy delivery systems, ending overregulation, and helping the American workforce fill jobs in the energy sector with the appropriate workforce training and development.