Need For Clean Energy Policy Still Strong

01/03/2010 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Those in the clean energy industry continue to play the waiting game in the policy arena. The question remains as what type of, if any, energy and climate change legislation will be put into action in the US in 2010.

I put my own spin on things this week, heavily relying on EnergyBoom’s archives. So, if you are trying to get caught up with what has been happening in the renewables game – join me as I venture through the dusty vaults of our past work.

The climate and energy bill topic (flying under many names) has been analyzed for months, and we here at EnergyBoom are keeping a close eye on happenings in Washington. Heck, we’ve been doing so for quite a while now. Check out our pieces on what key renewable energy industries have to say about the issue and also what we thought President Obama had to say about a future climate bill in the State of the Union address.

It is clear that long-term growth is dependent on this looming piece of legislation, but many have a foggy outlook on long-term financial and technology forecasts due to the policy lag. What’s not so foggy is that renewable resources are ripe and ready to go. In fact, that is exceptionally clear to scientists and should be to policy markers. Fresh news and more support for a bill keep rolling in.

Last week, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), based out of the United States released a new assessment of wind resources for each American state. As expected, the U.S. houses a lot more potential for wind than previously realized, but most of that potential is not being utilized. EnergyBoom’s Alison Pruitt covered the story in detail last week so be sure to give it read. Like I said, you’ve come to the right place to get caught up.

What the NREL managed to put together is chalk full of graphs and tables, with new resource maps and wind potential tables – something to gaze at while at your desk job. And don’t forget to blowup your own print out of the map to drape all over the office. Just me?

The NREL estimates that onshore wind resources in the US could generate nearly 37,000,000 gigawatt- hours (GWh) annually, more than nine times current total U.S. electricity consumption. That is the equivalent to about 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide! Surely numbers like this will help to advance policy — even if getting that many turbines up and running is likely far-fetched.

The American Wind Energy Association chimed in to note the importance of such research in its announcement: “Accurate information about the wind resource and the wind energy potential in each state is required for federal and state policy initiatives that will expand the use of wind energy in the United States.”

So if the data won’t convince them, what will? Is the President not ready to commit financially to a lower carbon future? Our own Kevin Grandia took a close glance at where clean energy fits into President Obama’s plans and future budget. Here is brief look into some of the funds the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has earmarked for clean energy projects:

* $500 million in credit subsidy to support $3 billion to $5 billion in loan guarantees for innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

*$144 million for research, development, and demonstration activities to modernize the electric grid including smart-grid technologies that will spur the transition to a smarter, more efficient, secure and reliable electric system, resulting in energy- and cost-saving choices for consumers, reduced emissions, and growth of renewable energy sources.

*$4.7 billion in clean energy technology investments, including:

  • Nearly $2.4 billion, an increase of $113 million, for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs including $302 million for solar energy, $220 million for biofuels and biomass R&D, $325 million for advanced vehicle technologies, and $231 million for energy efficient building technologies.
  • $545 million for advanced coal climate change technologies to focus resources to develop carbon capture technologies with broad applications to advanced coal power systems, existing power plants, and industrial sources.
  • 300 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy to accelerate game-changing energy technologies in need of rapid and flexible experimentation or engineering.
  • $793 million for clean energy activities and civilian nuclear energy programs, including research and development and infrastructure programs. The budget includes a new cross-cutting research program to address technology needs for all aspects of nuclear energy production.

Sounds like a lot of cash right? How can we pay for that you ask? Get your time machine ready as we head back to August 2009 to take a read of Zaher Karp’s piece on how consumers will handle the costs of future energy policy. His work notes that a report by the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), says household energy costs would increase by $83 a year under the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Bill. I’m guessing that environmental and climate change attitudes have a large effect on who is happy with that small cost and who isn’t. But we won’t go there.

So it’s clear: plenty has been talked about and lots of speculation has taken place. By now, it’s difficult to sift through the political banter to find what will make it into actual policy. But one can’t help but argue that time is indeed wasting. Other political issues have undoubtedly forced climate and energy work down the ladder, but that is no excuse for a complete stall. I know I’m not that only one hoping that 2010 does not come and go with a big blank for energy policy.



Entry filed under: Policy, Renewable Energy.

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