Weekly Resource for August 5, 2011
Even in a Time of Austerity, 25x'25 Remains the Correct Energy Goal
Renewable energy stakeholders are witnessing tumultuous times in their pursuit of a clean energy future. Earlier this week, a bipartisan agreement was reached by lawmakers that will bring about historic reductions in government spending in exchange for an increase in the amount of money the government can borrow.
And expected to come with that reduction in spending are substantial cutbacks in federal support for energy and conservation programs important to achieving the 25x’25 vision. In spite of the impending cuts to some renewable energy programs, 25x’25 efforts to help the nation transition to a clean new energy future will not be deterred and the leadership of the 25x’25 Alliance will find productive ways to operate within this changed dynamic. While this new era of austerity will present formidable challenges, it will also provide new forums for advancing the energy future that 25x’25 envisions; a future that will see returns on a triple bottom line – improved national security, a cleaner environment and sustained economic growth. A good example of recent 25x'25 outreach efforts includes an op-ed published in the congressional newspaper, Roll Call, on the eve of the debt ceiling vote. Co-authored by two 25x’25 leaders and former members of Congress, Thomas W. Ewing and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the article urges national policy makers not to sacrifice our nation’s energy security in their efforts to reduce the deficit. Read more…

News of Note


Lead Story: Debt-Ceiling, Spending-Cuts Deal Expected to Challenge Energy Programs
Renewable energy and energy efficiency advocates are keeping a wary eye on Washington after the White House and congressional leaders agreed to a $2.4-trillion-deficit-reduction deal signed into law this week. The legislation also allows for an increase in the limit on money the government is authorized to borrow, now at about $16.7 trillion. The deadline measure, passed with bipartisan support, calls for $917 billion in discretionary cuts over the next 10 years, with additional cuts of up to $1.5 trillion more coming later this year. The debt and deficit compromise creates a bi-partisan, 12-member joint "super" committee to find that $1.5 trillion in savings by Thanksgiving. If Congress does not enact at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction recommendations that will come from the "supercommittee" by December 23, the measure triggers the same amount in automatic spending reductions, called sequestration, including cuts to defense and mandatory spending such as Medicare. Members of the panel   six senators and six representatives   will be named in mid-August.

Sequestration could lead to large chunks of funding for DOE, USDA, Department of Defense and other government agencies being eliminated, calling into question the fate of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and technology research. Renewable energy advocates fear that broad cuts made with no precision could cost the United States a large share of a $2.3-trillion, global clean energy market.

Meanwhile, leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill say they are likely to combine the various appropriations measures that govern spending for fiscal year 2012, including the Energy and Water legislation, into a single omnibus bill. In fact, the debt limit compromise essentially represents a budget resolution for each of the next two fiscal years, setting maximum discretionary spending levels for fiscal 2012 at $1.043 trillion, $7 billion less than the current fiscal 2011, and $1.047 trillion for fiscal 2013, $3 billion less than the current year, which expires September 30.

The House has already passed spending bills for 2012 that make severe cuts to DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and to USDA farm energy programs authorized by the energy title of the 2008 Farm Bill. One proposal lost as a result of the debt-ceiling compromise was a plan to terminate the 45-cent Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or blenders' credit, and take some $600 million of the $2.4 billion in savings and convert it to infrastructure funding and tax credits that support the development of advanced biofuels. Sen. John Thune, R-SD, one of the plan's architects, said because the proposal did not make it into the debt-ceiling deal, it is now on "life support."

Vilsack Says USDA Remains Committed to Farm Energy Programs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told farm program stakeholders earlier this week that USDA remains committed to farm energy programs, despite what appears to be a new era of austerity brought about by the agreement between Congress and the White House significantly cutting federal spending. In a conference call with USDA constituent interests Tuesday following congressional adoption of the agreement, Vilsack said USDA would continue to support farm-based renewable energy programs, though, he acknowledged that without baseline funding beyond 2012, “it will be tough” to sustain those programs. He said the department will work with DOE and other agencies to find ways of promoting next-generation biofuels. Vilsack said fiscal 2011 resources that fund 2008 Farm Bill programs remain and that additional Rural Energy for America Program and Biorefinery Assistance Program announcements are coming soon. He also said the Obama administration is keeping a focus on better power transmission of renewable energy and will strongly support the development of advanced biofuels.

AWEA Says Wind Rebounds in 2Q; Continued Growth Depends on Stable Tax Policy
U.S. wind energy continued to rebound in the second quarter, with 2,151 megawatts (MW) of electrical generating capacity installed in the first half of 2011 versus 1,250 MW during the same time in 2010, up 72 percent. However, analysts at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) cautioned that without stable policy, such as an extension of the Production Tax Credit, set to expire in 2012, the industry's recovery will stall.

Project activity and orders for 2013 and beyond are scant because of the lack of a predictable business environment, causing layoffs and even bankruptcies in American manufacturing plants and the supply chain, said AWEA officials. They said difficulties for U.S. wind manufacturers will only worsen if Congress were to allow the tax credit to expire. The trade organization says that due to the Production Tax Credit and market stability over the past five years, domestic content in the U.S. industry reached a record high of 60 percent through 2010, according to a recent DOE report. "Clearly Congress cannot take for granted all the wind energy manufacturing and construction jobs that have been a bright spot through the recession," said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA. However, she added, "Wind tax credits enjoy broad bipartisan support, and since they're not spending programs, current projects are safe and prospects for extension of the Production Tax Credit beyond 2012 are good."

The wind sector averaged 3.2 percent of the nation's electricity over the strong wind months between January and April 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Monthly report. For now, wind energy remains ahead of schedule to generate 20 percent of America's electricity by 2030, the goal identified by the DOE under the George W. Bush Administration. "We're making more clean, homegrown energy, and prices are more affordable, than ever," Bode said. An additional 7,354 MW of new capacity was under construction by July 1, more than at any time since the third quarter of 2008. Since 2007, wind energy has installed 35 percent of America's new electrical generating capacity, more than twice coal and nuclear combined. For more information, click
HERE.

DOE Investing $50 Million to Advance Domestic Solar Manufacturing Market
The DOE said this week the agency will make a $50 million investment over two years into a program designed to help the United States reclaim a competitive edge in solar energy manufacturing. The "Scaling Up Nascent PV AT Home," or SUNPATH, program is the second photovoltaic manufacturing initiative supporting DOE's SunShot Initiative. Department officials say SUNPATH seeks to increase domestic manufacturing through investments that have sustainable, competitive cost and performance advantages. It will help companies with pilot-scale commercial production scale up their manufacturing capabilities, enabling them to overcome a funding gap that often curtails domestic business at a critical stage. By bridging the gap, SUNPATH will help ensure that innovative, low-cost solar technologies are manufactured in the United States, officials said.

The United States maintained a dominant share of the global solar market in 1995, manufacturing 43 percent of the world's PV panels. But that share has declined steadily to just 7 percent by 2010. DOE is seeking applicants with industrial-scale demonstrations of PV modules, cells, or substrates that offer lower-cost solutions in line with the SunShot goal. Applications are due by October 28, 2011. For more information, including access to application requirement and more on the DOE SunShot initiative, click
HERE.

Headlines of Note for the Week Ending August 5, 2011
News of interest to our 25x'25 Partners and advocates for a clean energy future:

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