By Kim Chipman
March 16 (Bloomberg) — Congress must set a national renewable-power standard and revamp the electric grid to help the burgeoning U.S. wind-energy industry reach its potential and compete globally, governors from 29 states said.
A jumble of state laws should be replaced by a federal edict, according to a report from the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes California, Florida and Massachusetts. The plan would help spur development and efficiency, which would create jobs, curb greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce dependency on oil imports, the coalition said.
The absence of such a standard is hurting the U.S., the governors said. China installed more wind-energy generators last year than any other country, doubling the nation’s windpower capacity, according to data released by the World Wind Energy Association last week. U.S. capacity, still the largest in the world, rose about 39 percent.
“The lack of a long-term renewable energy requirement in the United States is resulting in the loss of wind-manufacturing investments in our states to Europe and other areas,” the governors said in the report.
Asia and Europe each have larger shares of the global windpower market than North America, according to the World Wind Energy Report 2009.
Obama’s Top Goals
President Barack Obama has said moving the U.S. to cleaner energy is among his top goals and will enable the country to reduce its reliance on foreign oil, clean the environment and trigger technological innovation that will spur job growth and boost the economy.
“The president is fully committed to supporting policies that promote the production of wind energy,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mailed statement.
While Obama backs “intermediary steps” to boost alternative-energy production, such as the renewable electricity standard, he is focused on passing legislation that puts a price on carbon-dioxide pollution, spurring private investment in cleaner energy sources, LaBolt said. The president welcomes the efforts of the governor’s coalition, he said.
Wind power accounts for 2 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is ahead of schedule to meet a target of 20 percent by 2030, according to the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association, a trade group representing more than 2,500 companies.
GE, Southern Co.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, and Rhode Island’s Donald Carcieri, a Republican, are submitting the coalition’s recommendations to Congress and plan to discuss the report on a conference call later today.
General Electric Co., the largest U.S. supplier of wind turbines, has said a national-power standard is crucial to building a renewable-energy manufacturing base domestically. Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S is the world’s biggest maker of wind turbines.
U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Representative Henry Waxman of California, Democrats who head the two main congressional energy committees, have proposed renewable- electricity mandates.
Electric utilities including Atlanta-based Southern Co. have lobbied against the national standard, arguing that the southeastern part of the country doesn’t have enough wind and other alternative-power resources to meet such a requirement.
Global windpower capacity rose about 32 percent to 159,213 megawatts last year, according to the World Wind Energy Report 2009. U.S. capacity was the biggest with 35,159 megawatts, followed by China with 26,010 megawatts and Germany with 25,770, the World Wind Energy Association said in the report.
The governors also are calling on Congress to develop a new electric grid, streamline the approval process for offshore and on-shore wind projects and extend a Treasury Department energy- grant program under the economic recovery act so financial markets can “continue to recover” from the recession.
Some members of Congress, including Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, are trying to stop federal stimulus dollars from being spent on clean-energy projects that they say are creating jobs outside the U.S.
The governors also want Congress to adopt a long-term renewable energy production tax credit, which has been the main federal incentive for wind energy. They say it should be prolonged for at least five years to provide a stable market for wind-energy investment.
“Reforms are also needed to broaden the pool of investors who can participate in wind-energy financing,” the governors said in the report.
The coalition also includes governors from Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, according to the group’s report.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Chipman in Washington at KChipman@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: March 16, 2010 00:00 EDT