Offshore wind power part of a clean energy future

Source: By Nancy Sopko, The Hill • Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016

Offshore wind energy is a mature, proven technology that has the potential to supply clean energy to millions of Americans, despite the mischaracterizations in Dan Ervin’s Sept. 23 commentary.

While offshore wind in the U.S. may be in the early stages of development, in Europe it has been reliably generating emission-free electricity for decades. There are currently memorandum of understanding to further the development of offshore wind power. That sort of collaboration, combined with American ingenuity, often leads to better products at lower costs.

For example, the price consumers pay for wind power has dropped by two-thirds over six years, to the point where it’s now the cheapest source of new electric generating capacity in some parts of the country and cost competitive in many more. That decline has passed billions of dollars in savings on to consumers.

As the U.S. offshore wind industry develops, a similar price decline can be expected as the technology advances domestically. Another advantage of offshore wind is that it allows electricity prices to be locked in for 20 years or more, protecting consumers from fluctuations in conventional fuel prices. That’s particularly important, because the abundant offshore U.S. wind resource is close to many of the country’s largest population centers, and it corresponds to periods of high demand, where wholesale electricity prices tend to be most expensive.

It’s true that many states are choosing to increase their renewable portfolio standards (RPSs), but the evidence shows these are overwhelmingly successful policies that create jobs, save money and clean the air. Just in this part year, states representing about a quarter of the U.S. population (California,OregonNew York,Massachusetts Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia) chose to increase their RPSs. In many of these locales, particularly those on the East Coast, the target was increased with offshore wind power in mind as a solution.

What have state RPSs meant for Americans? They’ve created $7.5 billion in annual environmental benefits from reduced air emissions, 27 billion gallons in reduced yearly water consumption, and $1.3 billion to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices according to top U.S. national laboratories, including 200,000 American jobs and $20 billion in annual GDP.

While wind energy does receive federal incentives, the reality is all American energy sources do. Since 1950, wind has received less than three percent of all federal energy incentives, whereas conventional fuels make up 86 percent.

And wind power’s performance-based tax incentive has fueled the industry’s growth while creating 88,000 wind power jobs in all 50 states, as well as a homegrown industry that has tripled in size since 2008. Today, many states reliably generate large portions of their electricity using wind; Iowa is over 31 percent, and a dozen states use wind to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity, evidence wind can make a meaningful contribution to a diversified energy mix.

Americans want more clean energy; a recent poll found 91 percent of likely voters support expanding wind power. Wind has proven up to the task, supplying enough electricity to power 20 million homes a year and counting. Moving forward, offshore wind will be a growing part of a clean energy solution.

Nancy Sopko is manager of Advocacy & Federal Legislative Affairs for the American Wind Energy Association.