Bipartisan coalition presses Trump on wind and solar

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The leaders of a 20-state coalition are urging the Trump administration to support wind and solar energy and emphasize grid upgrades in any infrastructure package.

In a letter today, Govs. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas and Gina Raimondo (D) of Rhode Island said renewable energy growth “is an American success story built on federal research and development, state policy leadership, private sector investment and ingenuity.”

They wrote, “Last year, the country’s solar industry employed over 200,000 and added 31,000 new jobs. Most of the installations are in rural areas and have provided landowners another income option.”

Brownback and Raimondo are heads of the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, a bipartisan group of chief executives that includes states ranging from Hawaii to Virginia.

Kansas generates about a quarter of its power from wind, and Rhode Island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind project, which came online last year on Block Island.

The group is asking for passage of new offshore wind legislation, increases in wind and solar research at the Department of Energy, long-term extension of investment tax credits to help offshore wind, grid modernization funding, and collaboration on addressing “unworkable wildlife regulations.”

Without continued federal research to lower costs of wind and solar, the United States will “cede leadership” to nations like China that are making investments, the governors wrote.

The coalition also calls for a state-federal task force, possibly in conjunction with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the national labs, to streamline regulations affecting grid upgrades.

“Improving the regulatory framework will stimulate private sector and utility investments in a resilient electric system that is capable of withstanding security threats and delivering low cost electricity to every region of the nation,” the governors said.

Theoretically, the United States could install 86 gigawatts of offshore wind power by midcentury, according to DOE. Europe currently has about 11 GW of offshore wind.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that the recent extension of the production and investment tax credits will not help offshore wind because the ITC phases out by 2020.

For that reason, the governors are pressing for a long-term extension and support for legislation from Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would allow the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind to qualify.

The letter is one of many sent to the Trump administration from groups representing everything from the coal industry to oil interests.

President Trump’s views on renewable energy remain nebulous, though, considering the sector isn’t mentioned at all on the White House’s energy plan page.

At his nomination hearing, Trump’s pick for DOE secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), said he supported renewables, but it remained unclear whether he would support existing levels of federal research on wind and solar across the board (E&E Daily, Jan. 20).

Separately, the coalition sent a letter to governors highlighting activity to increase or protect state renewable production standards that exist in 29 states.

Recent actions include the signing of legislation in Illinois to set the RPS at 25 percent by 2025 and the increase of the Michigan RPS from 10 to 15 percent by 2021.