By Dan LeDuc
Lack of Predictability is Hampering Investment and Job Development
The lack of long term, predictable federal policy is impeding development of clean energy in the United States, stalling investments and hamstringing job creation at a critical time in the nation’s history.
That consensus emerged from a day-long meeting of business leaders, investors, researchers and government officials convened in Washington, DC, on Oct. 5, 2012 by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Clean Energy Program. The session built on a series of roundtable meetings Pew held throughout the nation over the past year to highlight promising policy initiatives that could increase U.S. competitiveness in the global clean energy race.
“The global need for new solutions is driving the most important economic development race of the 21st century,” David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Energy Department, told the gathering. “We need to win it.”
Before an audience of more than 100 members of Pew’s Clean Energy Business Network, panelists discussed innovation efforts, supply and demand issues for renewable energy and the policy outlook for 2013 and beyond.
“Federal policy should shape markets that encourage industry to develop renewables,” said Dana Christensen, deputy laboratory director for science and technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
One key driver to help industry is the production tax credit for wind, participants said. But the credit, which helps keep electricity prices low and encourages development of proven clean energy projects, is set to expire at the end of the year. The impact is already being felt. Some U.S. manufacturers of wind turbines have held off expansion and even laid off workers in anticipation of the credit ending.
“It’s difficult to get funding today,” said Jeff Metts, president of Dowding Industries/Astaerus Wind Energies, which makes turbines. “We need some stability in this market.”
Concern about this lack of certainty was a theme that ran throughout the day’s session, especially in terms of international competitiveness. David Berry, a partner in Flagship Ventures, said members of Congress typically are more interested in established technologies and that companies with new ideas that he invests in often find it easier to go overseas. He would like to change that mindset, he said, because “we want to be able to build those technologies here.”
In 2011, for the first time in several years, the United States led the world in clean energy investments, according to research by Pew and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Other nations have national policies on the adoption of clean energy while the U.S. relies on a patchwork of state policies and cyclical tax incentives, such as the production and investment tax credits.
Pew has been involved in energy policy for two decades and now is working to accelerate the clean energy sector for its economic, national security and environmental benefits. Working with business leaders is a way to help bring their perspective to policy making.
“The business and government leaders gathered today understand that the United States needs a national energy policy that will provide industry and investors with certainty,” said Phyllis Cuttino who directs the Pew Clean Energy Program. “Without a clear roadmap forward, it’s difficult for businesses to plan, invest, develop, and deploy. This hampers America’s ability to attract private investment and effectively compete in the fiercely contested global clean energy race.”
The Honorable John W. Warner, former U.S. senator and secretary of the Navy, and currently a senior adviser to the Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate, also addressed the gathering. “We are hopeful that Congress will formulate a national energy policy that will provide not only economic benefits but strengthen our national security and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” he said.
Clean Energy Supply: Inside the Gratio County Wind Farm
Clean Energy Demand: Solar Panels Power Ikea
Clean Energy Policy: Vital for the Economy, National Security, and Environment
Clean Energy Innovation: Deriving Biofuel from Pine Trees
Note: Conference videos best viewed in Firefox or Chrome web browsers.
Opening Remarks from Phyllis Cuttino
Keynote Speech by Dana Christensen
Panel One: Innovation
Panel Two: Supply
Panel Three: Demand
Panel Four: Policy
Cosing Remarks from Sen. John Warner