Solar power, wind power, and even geothermal power have boomed in recent years in the U.S., making the country a leader in these fields. They’ve partly boomed due to dropping costs, more efficient technologies, and more energy-conscious people and businesses. However, a huge part of their growth has been due to a couple of government policies — the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
These are set to expire, unfortunately, but a couple of Congressmen, Representative Reichert (R-WA-08) and Representative Blumenauer (D-OR-03), introduced a bill to extend the renewable energy production tax credit on November 2. You can encourage your Representative to support this bill in seconds on this wind power action page. Please do so now!
Energy Subsidies Should be More Fair
Now, if you try to make the argument that clean energy shouldn’t be living on subsidies, fine, but that would mean that fossil fuels and nuclear power shouldn’t be living on subsidies either (they get trillions of dollars in subsidies every decade and don’t have to worry about those subsidies expiring like the clean energy industry does). Also, I think it’s important to note that subsidies are often used to get a new or young industry that provides important societal benefits going, and fossil fuel and nuclear industries received a ton more subsidies in their early development than wind and solar. Who’s is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to government subsidies?
A coalition of 24 governors from both the Republican and Democratic party and from each region of the country have gotten behind an extension of the PTC and ITC. I’m sure that number will grow. But Congress has to hear your voice, as well. (The governors are actually calling for much more than this, if you’re interested in reading more about their call to action.)
Now, if you think these subsidies aren’t doing anything, don’t worry, I’ve got an answer for that, too.
Clean Energy Subsidies are Creating Jobs, Making the U.S. a Clean Energy Leader
Compared to the previous year, when the PTC has expired and not been immediately renewed, wind energy installations have fallen up to 93% compared to the previous year! The PTC lowers the cost of wind by 90%. Wind power has grown a ton in the U.S. in the last few years and we now have the second-most installed wind power in the world (only behind China — note the image above). Last year, we also had the second-most newly installed wind power (only behind China). We have enough wind power installed to power approximately 10 million homes now! And we have 400 U.S. manufacturing facilities for wind across the U.S. creating thousands of jobs. I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point.
The solar energy situation is similar:
- The U.S. solar industry now employs over 100,000 people (more than the coal industry).
- The U.S. solar industry is the fastest-growing industry in the country (creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy).
- There are over 5,000 solar companies across the U.S., some in every state.
- Solar PV installations have grown 69% over the last year (40 times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole).
- The U.S. solar energy industry is a net exporter, by $2 billion (and is even a net exporter to China).
I could go on and on, but the important point today is that these federal policies are important to solar continued rapid growth. Solar Energy Industry Association president Rhone Resch said last month: “an extension of the 1603 program even for just one year will support 37,000 additional jobs and deploy 2,000 additional megawatts of solar capacity. Let me repeat that – 37,000 new jobs next year.”
Clean energy is widely supported by the public, but without pressure on our Congress people, I think you and I both now that most of them will pay more attention to the lobbyists and their political donors (largely the big, rich fossil fuel industry).
(More on the governors’ call to clean energy action here.)
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.