Published on August 9th, 2014 |
by Zachary Shahan
How Congress Messes With The Wind Industry (Charts)
August 9th, 2014 by Zachary Shahan
Anyone who follows the US wind energy industry knows all too well how US Congress has consistently disrupted it. The wind energy production tax credit (PTC) is equivalent to what other energy industries have coded into law. The wind industry, on the other hand, has had it implemented for 1-3 years at a a time and renewal has been left in limbo several years up until the very end of the year. Or, in some cases, the wind industry has been left at the alter as the PTC hasn’t been renewed by the end of the year.
It’s ironic that an industry widely supported by the public, Republicans and Democrats alike, gets messed with so much while fossil fuel industries and the nuclear industry get unquestioned support. Tens of thousands of jobs put on the line time and time again, some of them lost forever to the whims of political positioning and selfishness.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently released the US Wind Industry Second Quarter 2014 Market Report. It is quite concise, so I encourage you to go check it out. 5 charts in particular stood out to me, and a couple of them stimulated that rant above. Here are the charts (along with a little more commentary):
Getting Messed With
This first chart shows annual cumulative wind power capacity as well as annual and then quarterly capacity additions. At this scale, you almost can’t see the capacity additions from 2013 and the 1st half of 2014. 2012 was a record year, in no small part because wind energy developers rushed their projects through by December 31st (note the big green bar in the 4th quarter of 2013) because they weren’t sure if the PTC would be around come January 1st (it wasn’t, but then it did get renewed within days… with a small but significant change).
This chart takes out the cumulative capacity totals so that you can more clearly see quarterly variations. The stark contrast between the 4th quarter of 2012 and everything that follows is telling, and especially the difference between it and the first three quarters of 2013.
I think this chart is the most interesting, as it adds in wind power capacity under construction as well as new wind power capacity under construction. The “small change” made to the PTC when it was renewed at the beginning of 2013 was that it said wind power projects eligible for the PTC had to be under construction by the end of 2015, rather than completed by that time. The result was a gigantic spike in new projects, a ton of projects still under construction, and few projects completed. Of course, boom and bust isn’t great for an industry, and neither is being forced to start as many projects as possible and let them wait to be completed so that you can start others. But that’s essentially what Congress has ordered.
Aside from all of that, it was interesting to see how much Texas leads in wind power capacity, as well as 2014 capacity additions. California and Iowa are also quite a bit above the other states, but wow, look at Texas.
This map up new wind power capacity under construction follows that up, showing that the trend continues.
Ironically, Texas have a popular saying, “Don’t mess with Texas.” A lot of people in Texas are certainly getting messed with. Ironically, most of them are probably Republicans, getting messed with by Republican congresspeople.
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