Governors' Wind Energy Coalition Urges National Renewable Energy Standard

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Environment News Service

Governors' Wind Energy Coalition Urges National Renewable Energy Standard

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Iowa Governor Chet Culver, who chairs the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, says he backs a national renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025, which he says could create more than 300,000 green jobs. (photo by flickr user Jeff Kubina)

WASHINGTON, DC - For the first time, a group of state governors is jointly requesting that Congress and the President adopt a national renewable energy standard - a minimum requirement for the use of renewable electricity.

Organized as the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, the bipartisan group of 29 governors from across the country today presented this request as the lead recommendation in a package that includes streamlined permitting for both onshore and offshore wind power projects and an upgraded interstate electric transmission system.

The coalition recommends a renewable electricity standard requiring the nation's utilities to provide a minimum 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biopower, by 2012. Over half of the states in the nation already have enacted some form of renewable electricity standard.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver, who chairs the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, says he backs a national renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025, which he says could create more than 300,000 green jobs.

Governor Culver, a Democrat, and the coalition's co-chair Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican, today released "Great Expectations: U.S. Wind Energy Development, the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition's 2010 Recommendations."

In its recommendations, the coalition emphasizes the goal of providing at least 20 percent of the nation's electric needs from wind power by 2030. A recent assessment of wind's prospects and impacts released by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that the United States could meet this goal.

"The title of the governors' recommendations could not be more apt," Governor Culver told reporters on a teleconference call. "Americans have great expectations for the nation's energy future, and these recommendations from the nation's governors to Congress and the administration meet those expectations."

"This is the first set of comprehensive wind energy recommendations ever submitted to Congress by a group of the nation's governors," said Governor Carcieri. "These recommendations could not be more timely," he said.

"Congressional action on the energy bill seems to have stalled," said the Rhode Island governor. "It is our hope that these recommendations - and the national bipartisan consensus they represent - will advance the energy deliberations now under way in Congress."

Both governors said the coalition is leaving the climate change debate aside and focusing on the ability of wind power development to create jobs and reduce American dependence on imported oil.

The Governors' Wind Energy Coalition recommendations call on Congress and the Obama Administration to:

* Adopt a Renewable Electricity Standard.

* Develop new interstate electric transmission system infrastructure as needed to provide access to premier renewable energy resources both onshore and offshore.

* Fully support coastal, deep water, and offshore wind energy technology and transmission research and development.

* Streamline permitting processes for both offshore and onshore wind energy development projects.

* Expand the U.S. Department of Energy's work with the states and the wind industry to accelerate innovation.

* Extend the Treasury Department Grant Program in Lieu of the Investment Tax Credit, and adopt a long-term renewable energy production tax credit with provisions to broaden the pool of eligible investors.

In their letter to Congressional leaders introducing the recommendations, the governors expressed their intention to wean the United States off imported oil.

"We share a common concern that our dependence on imported energy sources poses unacceptable and unnecessary risks to the nation's energy, economic and national security," they wrote. "We offer our assistance in working with Congress and the Administration to achieve one of the nation's principal energy goals, energy independence, and increasing the role that wind energy plays in meeting that challenge."

The governors recognized that Congress began to address this goal last year when the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), often called the Waxman-Markey bill after its two authors, Congressmen Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. This bill does include provisions for a national renewable electricity standard.

But, the governors wrote, more policy work remains as the Senate considers its version of clean energy legislation, and they want their recommendations to assist the Senate in its deliberations.

Governor Culver told reporters that Iowa's rapid wind energy development over the past four years shows what can be done. "I'm excited and passionate about this," said Culver. "In Iowa we've gone from five percent wind energy 40 months ago to 20 percent today."

In Rhode Island, Governor Carcieri said, he has been facilitating what will be the first offshore wind project in North America. And it will provide all the electricity Rhode Island needs.

Deepwater Wind has completed a power purchase agreement with National Grid to sell three million megawatt hours of wind power per year from a wind farm the company would construct off the Rhode Island coast of Block Island. The Public Utilities Commission is expected to approve the deal this month.

The company has pledged to invest in wind turbine manufacturing in Rhode Island, and Carcieri says the agreement represents over $1 billion in private investment that will create jobs generating some $60 million in annual wages.

This company was chosen, the governor said, because its technology, based on oil platform technology, allows the wind turbines to be sited at least 12 miles offshore, out of sight of land. This distance avoids some of the objections that have been raised to the planned Cape Wind development off the Massachusetts coast of Cape Cod, which has been grinding slowly through the permitting process for eight years.

Carcieri said the average permitting process for wind development is estimated to take seven years, and that must be shortened to take advantage of the available investment capital for wind projects. "There's private capital ready to go, ready to invest," said the Rhode Island governor, "but it cannot sit around for seven years waiting to invest."

One of the big obstacles to a national renewable energy system is the cost for an expanded interstate transmission system - estimated to cost on the order of $75 to $100 billion to support economic power transfers and meet the 20 percent of renewable energy standard.

This investment can be obtained from the private sector, since current investments in transmission throughout the nation are now in the range of $5 billion to $10 billion a year from private sources, the governors' report states.

"The primary barrier is determining which generation developers should pay which share of the cost, and how such costs could be included in delivered electricity prices. In particular," says the report, "actual transmission investment should flow from successful renewable power projects that can offer to purchasers the lowest delivered price of power for their product."

All this is doable, the governors say, pointing to the fact that 42 percent of all new power plants installed in the nation in 2008 are powered by the wind.

"We must continue to work in collaborative fashion in different regions of the country in a bipartisan fashion," said Governor Carcieri. "If we pull together we can address the challenges."

Click here to view "Great Expectations: U.S. Wind Energy Development, the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition's 2010 Recommendations."

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