Tax credits aren’t enough to spur renewables, governors say

Source: By Jodi Delapaz, Agri-Pulse • Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2016 – Although a long-term renewable energy tax credit policy is in place, a bipartisan group of 20 governors says that other policy and permitting issues still hinder wind and solar development.

Expanding wind and solar energy production is one of the best ways to meet the nation’s energy needs, the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition said in a recent letter to President Obama, but despite the renewable tax incentive the nation still has only one offshore wind project under construction, off the coast of Rhode Island.

“Indeed, not a single offshore wind facility in the U.S. has yet become operational and, therefore, been able to take advantage of the existing tax incentive,” the letter said.

Permitting collaboration efforts must be improved, the coalition says, citing the difficulty of getting permits for wind and solar projects on public lands, as “evidenced by the fact that more than 98 percent of the currently installed wind energy capacity is on private lands.”

The governors also expressed concern over a proposed rule from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would change the existing right-of-way grant and rental fee process for wind and solar development into a competitive leasing process. While the governors say they understand the “motivation to move in this direction,” they urged the administration to address the “many concerns” raised by the private sector that could limit wind and solar development on public lands.

The governors urged the administration to ensure that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) does not broaden legal liability for the private sector under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), to include wind and solar facilities, without having a permit process that provides protection from the liability.

Additional changes should also be made to a proposed eagle permit rule “to ensure the final rule is workable while continuing to protect eagles,” the governors say.

FWS is “adding uncertainty and unnecessary delays” in permitting, the coalition says, which affects the development of projects and operating facilities on both on public and private lands, the letter says.

The Coast Guard’s recently finalized Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study (ACPARS) is also a concern, the governors say, because “it is not clear that the approaches detailed in ACPARS properly balance the multiple uses of the ocean.” The coalition urged the administration to “find a pathway” between the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that allows for the offshore wind industry to move forward, and that includes “robust collaboration” with the states.

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan thanked the governors for their support. “Wind farms are some of the greatest infrastructure projects this country has ever built,” Kiernan said. “But there’s a lot more to be done if wind energy is to meet its promise. These governors are leading. They’re attuned to economic development needs and deployment challenges in their states, and they’re looking to the federal agencies to help rather than hinder.”