Weekly REsource for April 13, 2012
NREL Study Shows Value of U.S. Support of Clean Energy Development
An
assessment from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released last week indicating the “Section 1603″ Treasury Department grant program is proving successful in creating and sustaining jobs in the clean energy sector should come as little surprise to those who have no political axe to grind. The 1603 grant program had “the near term goal of creating and retaining jobs” in the renewable energy sector. And that objective, the NREL said last week, was well met. The three-year program generated direct and indirect jobs in the tens of thousands annually through construction and installation expenditures, or roughly 150,000-220,000 job-years. The NREL says those expenditures also supported up to $14 billion in total earnings. The study reaffirms the role of government in the development of new, economy-boosting and job-creating technologies – good news that renewable energy advocates should share with federal policy makers. Read more…


News of Note

U.S. Leads Record Global Clean Energy Investment, But Unlikely to Stay at Top

Global clean energy finance and investment grew to $263 billion in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year,
according to new research released by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Among Group of Twenty (G-20) nations, the United States reclaimed the top spot from China, which led the global clean energy race since 2009. Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and India were also among the nations that most successfully attracted private investments last year.

“Clean energy investment, excluding research and development, has grown by 600 percent since 2004, on the basis of effective national policies that create market certainty,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “This increase was due in part to the number of countries that have implemented effective national policies to support the clean energy market. In the United States, which attracted $48 billion last year, investors took advantage of the country’s stimulus programs before they expired at the end of 2011, as well as the production tax credit for electricity from renewable energy, which is to end this December.”

The U.S. investment total represents a 42 percent increase. With investors taking advantage of key policies that were about to expire, the United States led all nations in financing for solar, energy efficiency, and biofuel technologies. In addition, the United States led in venture capital/private equity and research and development investments.

However, in terms of rate of investment growth over the past five years, the United States is not even in the top 10, and it lags behind other nations in deployment of clean energy assets. The report,
Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?, also examines how nations are faring in the increasingly stiff competition for private investment among the world’s leading economies. Investment in G-20 countries accounted for more than 95 percent of the global total.

Researchers said the contrast between venture capital investments and capacity additions in the United States highlights a persistent phenomenon in which the country fails to deploy into the marketplace the clean energy innovations it creates in the laboratory. Meanwhile, China has adopted clean energy policies that encourage manufacturing and deployment, and endangering the U.S. lead in the global clean energy market. While overall investment levels grew by only 1 percent, to $45.5 billion, far from the rapid growth rates of recent years, China remains a dynamic hub of clean energy activity, leading the world in wind energy investment and deployment, and in wind and solar manufacturing.

China has goals of installing 160 gigawatts of wind power and 50 gigawatts of solar power by 2020. The United States has no comparable targets and, in fact, is about to lose a production tax credit benefiting wind producers that expires at the end of this year. Several large wind industry manufacturers have threatened to take their investments elsewhere, a move that the industry says will cost the United States thousands of jobs.

S.D., Iowa Help Lead 31% Jump in U.S. Wind Energy Capacity in 2011

South Dakota and Iowa lead a record five states that received more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind in 2011, says the American Wind Energy Association in its
2011 annual market report.

The report shows the U.S. wind industry installed 6,816 megawatts (MW) in 2011, 31 percent higher than 2010, for a total of 46,916 MW installed in the U.S. to date. And there are more than 8,300 MW under construction, setting the stage for a strong 2012, AWEA officials say.

Seven states have at least 4,000 wind jobs apiece, and the report shows the industry’s geographic reach, stretching from Iowa to Texas to Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, California and Michigan. Meanwhile, Kansas’ position at the top of the list for under-construction wind projects is setting the stage for a very strong 2012, AWEA said.

"American wind energy is creating American jobs and affordable electricity all across the country," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. We are powering one of the country’s biggest sources of Made-in-the-USA manufacturing jobs and a vital source of economic development despite the down economy."
 
Bode says that with bipartisan policy stability, American wind power has brought in as much as $20 billion annually in private investment to the United States; created one of the largest providers of new American electric generation with 35% of all new power capacity, right behind natural gas; driven technology advances that have made wind more affordable than ever; created nearly 500 new American manufacturing facilities and employed 75,000 overall, including 30,000 in the manufacturing sector, from coast to coast.

"This shows what wind power is capable of: building new projects, powering local economies and creating jobs,” said Bode. "Traditional tax incentives are working. This tremendous activity is being driven by the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) – which leverages as much as $20 billion a year in private investment and supports tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.”

Biofuel Groups Support RFS, EPA in Federal Lawsuit

Six biofuel trade associations have filed a motion in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene in support of the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) 2012 final rule being challenged by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

The groups say they are standing with EPA in its implementation of the requirements under the RFS, particularly the cellulosic biofuels volumes. The American Petroleum Institute filed suit on behalf of its member oil companies, seeking a reversal of the RFS requirement that 6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol be blended into the nation's fuel supply, making the firms subject to fines for noncompliance, despite the lack of commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol.

However, biofuel advocacy groups, including those trade groups petitioning the court seeking intervener status, say there are alternative means available to oil companies to comply with the RFS.

Petitioning the court are the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

In their joint filing, the groups noted that their "members have investments in equipment, research and development, to supply the necessary renewable fuel." API’s challenge would reduce the standards set by Congress and EPA and deprive members of the benefit of the investments made in reliance on Congress’ policy choices. The case is D.C. Circuit case no. 12-1139, American Petroleum Institute v. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Obama Calls for More Military Clean Energy Efforts

The White House this week
detailed a new set of military renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs in a move administration officials say is designed to improve the energy security of both the U.S. armed forces and the nation.

The Pentagon currently has a statutory goal of meeting 25 percent of its facility energy needs with renewable energy by 2025, and President Obama said in his State of the Union address in January that the Navy would develop one gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy on its installations by 2020.

The White House announcement increases those goals, promising to deploy 3 GW of renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, across all the services by 2025.

"These new steps build on President Obama’s unwavering commitment to energy security for America’s warfighters, and to a sustained, comprehensive strategy to ensure a secure energy future for all Americans,"
the White House said in a statement.

In related news, the Army opened this week a new lab at Detroit Arsenal that officials say will develop cutting edge energy technologies for the next generation of combat vehicles. Defense Department officials say that through a partnership with academia and industry, advances developed by the lab could also hold promise for passenger and commercial vehicles.

"Developing advanced technologies for tactical and non-tactical ground vehicles that support our military forces at home and abroad will make our forces more combat effective while helping save American families dollars at the pump," the White House said.

The Pentagon says the Ground Systems Power and Energy Lab (GSPEL)’s eight state-of-the-art labs "offer an unprecedented range of test and validation capabilities for emerging power, energy and mobility technologies at a single facility. The Army’s best and brightest ground vehicle research scientists, engineers and technicians combined with GSPEL’s unique facilities, will enable the Army to innovate tomorrow’s energy solutions."

Another step announced by the administration includes a 2013 program, "Green Warrior Convoy," which will test and demonstrate Army advanced vehicle power and technology, including fuel cells, hybrid systems, battery technologies and alternative fuels. The convoy will make appearances at schools, colleges, communities and military facilities around the country to show the importance of energy improvements," the White House said.

The White House emphasized that the goals could be met "at no additional cost to taxpayers" by using a number of different financing tools. Administration officials cite as an example the recent conversion from coal to woody biomass at the DOE's Savannah River Site.

Shares of Electricity Generation from Renewables Up in Many States

According to preliminary data from the DOE's Energy Information Administration, non-hydroelectric renewable generation has increased in many states over the past decade. In 2011, Maine had the highest percentage of non-hydroelectric renewable generation, at 27 percent of total in-state generation, up from 20 percent in 2001. South Dakota and Iowa followed, with 21 percent and 17 percent, respectively, in 2011, up from one percent and less than one percent in 2001. Wind is the largest driver of the increase across all states.

Including hydropower changes the picture dramatically. Hydroelectric generation is often separated from other renewable generation as it is both larger (on a national basis) and highly variable from year to year. Some states generate considerably more electricity than they consume. In particular, significant excess hydropower generation in the Pacific Northwest flows south to California in the spring. In 2011, the states with the largest shares of generation coming from renewables, including hydro, were: Idaho (93%), Washington (82%), and Oregon (78%). Hydroelectric production was particularly high in 2011 in the Pacific Northwest.

More than half of all states have put in place Renewable Portfolio Standards to promote generation from renewable sources. Federal production tax credits and grants also contributed to increases in renewable capacity and generation between 2001 and 2011. Wind was the fastest growing source of non-hydroelectric renewable generation, as many operators of wind turbines have benefited from these programs.

EIA recently released preliminary data through December 2011 on generation, fuel consumption, and other statistics from the electric power industry in the
Electric Power Monthly and Electricity Monthly Update. A significant share of generation from biomass and solar photovoltaic resources occurs in the end-use industrial, residential, and commercial sectors and is not included in the utility-scale electric power data.

U.S. Geothermal Industry Grows Despite Uncertain Federal Energy Policy

The U.S. geothermal industry continued its steady growth adding approximately 91 MW of newly installed capacity in the past year, according to the annual update on the geothermal industry from the
Geothermal Energy Association. The Annual U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Report shows that the industry currently has 3,187 MW of installed capacity, significantly outpacing every other country in the world. As a renewable, baseload energy supply, geothermal has the potential to replace coal and other non-renewable power sources.

Currently, geothermal electric power generation is occurring in eight U.S. states, including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. An additional seven states   Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas and Washington   have geothermal capacity in development. California continues to lead the way when it comes to geothermal energy. The Golden State ranks first in overall installed capacity, with 2,615 MW already online, and it has nearly 2,000 MW of capacity in development. Nevada is also ahead of the pack, with 59 projects currently in development, more than any other state.

The implementation of binary geothermal technology has enabled the industry to develop lower temperature resources, which has expanded the geothermal industry's geographical footprint beyond California, especially in the last decade.

"Demonstrating the abilities of geothermal systems to produce power from lower temperature systems, such as oil and gas coproduced geothermal, is pushing out the boundaries for geothermal power to encompass over a third of the U.S.," said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.

"We've seen slow but steady growth for geothermal, even in a challenging economy. The drivers for that growth have been state renewable portfolio standards, federal tax credits, DOE demonstration project support, and the fact that utility scale geothermal energy offers clean baseload energy that's competitive with other clean energy technologies," Gawell said. "The geothermal industry looks to our policy leaders to provide a stable environment to foster growth that could lead the U.S. toward greater energy independence."

Gawell continued: "With federal tax credits expiring at the end of 2013, many new geothermal power plants cannot count on federal help. Most plants need between four and eight years of lead time before the geothermal resource is on tap. As Washington debates whether or not to extend renewable energy tax incentives, the industry struggles to continue steady growth. Stable tax credit policies would further enhance this development. State policies also continued to support new development, but need to better recognize the full value of geothermal, particularly its contribution to the reliability of the power system."


Headlines of Note for the Week Ending April 13, 2012
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