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9/7/10 What's Wrong With this Picture: National and state government throws out life lines to wind industry but refuses safety net for wind farm residents whose lives have been ruined. PSC to Wisconsin residents: You got a problem with it? Too bad. Call a lawyer

 

 

NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD:

The majority of the Wisconsin Wind Siting Council did all they could to come up with rules that make things easier for the wind industry and harder for local government and wind project residents seeking protection and remedy.

This was hardly surprising considering the majority of the council members had a direct or indirect financial interest in doing so.

The Public Service Commission recently voted to approve rules that do the same.

Only one PSC commissioner, Lauren Azar, expressed any concern for those who will be impacted by the rules.

She repeatedly asked for provisions to protect Wisconsin residents and insure remedy for problems, specifically requesting a provision that would act as a 'safety net' for those who suffer verifiable turbine related impacts to their health.

Callisto flatly refused to consider this, indicating aggrieved residents could bring a private lawsuit against the wind company.

Azar pointed out that most rural Wisconsin residents could not afford the approximately $200,000 in non-recoverable legal fees required to bring a lawsuit against such large companies and the PSC had an opportunity to  build in protections.

Callisto and Meyer were unmoved.

In the end Commissioner Azar voted with Callisto and Meyer, much to the dismay of those whose lives, futures and communities will be forever changed by rules that err on the side of corporate interests instead of caution.

Click on the image below to see Governor Doyle's cameo in a video posted by the American Wind Energy Association on YouTube

Will wind energy bring promised jobs to Wisconsin? If so, how many?

Better Plan posted this a few days ago, and we'd like to post it again as a reminder---

In Wisconsin, Facts About ‘Green Job’ Creation Elusive as the Wind

SOURCE MacIver News Service | September 1, 2010

By Bill Osmulski

MacIver News Service Investigative Reporter

[Madison, Wisc...] Although they are touted and promoted by policy makers and opinion leaders across the state, accurately defining and keeping track of ‘green jobs’ has proven nearly impossible in Wisconsin.

Take, for example, ‘green jobs’ associated with the wind industry.

Wisc. Governor JimDoyle (D)

“Clean energy technology and high-end manufacturing are Wisconsin’s future,” Governor Jim Doyle said in his final State of the State address. “We have more than 300 companies and thousands of jobs in the wind industry.”

That statistic is impossible to verify.

The State of Wisconsin does not track those companies nor the jobs within the industry.

When contacted, the Office of Energy Independence (an agency created by Governor Doyle in 2007) directed MacIver News to Wisconsin Wind Works, a self-described “consortium of manufacturers representing the wind manufacturing supply chain within Wisconsin.”

The advocacy group maintains an online wind energy-related supply chain database, although a routine  examination of the data proved just how unreliable the figures are.

When the online, searchable database was utilized earlier this summer, it listed 340 companies in Wisconsin connected to the wind industry, a fact which, without additional investigation would appear to be in line with the Governor’s statement.

However, further examination showed many of those companies were not currently serving the wind industry and were only listed because they someday could serve the wind industry.

For example, the database listed 38 manufacturers, but only 24 of them have anything to actually do with the wind energy sector presently.

Of those 24 Wisconsin manufacturers, only eight were categorized as primary suppliers.

Another four companies were listed as both primary and secondary suppliers. A MacIver News Service reporter contacted all eight primary suppliers and the four companies listed as primary/secondary suppliers in our initial query and what we found further eroded the credibility of Governor Doyle’s claims.

When contacted, the companies listed as both primary and secondary suppliers all described themselves merely as secondary suppliers. That means they produce products that are not exclusive to the wind energy.

For example, Bushman Equipment manufactures lifts that move heavy pieces of equipment, which, among many other uses, can be used to handle wind turbines.

Wisconsin Wind Works’ database is not only generous with the number of companies within their supply chain it associates as being primary suppliers, there are issues with the actual job numbers listed for each company as well.

Many of the figures are either inflated, the jobs are not located in Wisconsin, or they cannot be tied to wind energy.

For example, Rexnord Industries was one of the eight Wisconsin manufacturers listed in our query as directly serving the wind energy industry. The database shows the company has 6,000 employees.

Yet a Rexnord official told the MacIver News Service that the company only has 1,500 employees in Wisconsin, and only five of those have jobs which are directly tied to the wind industry.

Wisconsin Wind Works’ database says Orchid International has 600 employees, but a company spokesperson told MacIver it only has 150.

Amsoil Inc. in Superior has 236 employees listed in the Wisconsin Wind Works database, but a company representative told the MacIver News Service that only 6 of them work on wind energy-related products.

In all, at the time of our search, the database claimed 7,632 jobs among the eight manufacturers that were current primary suppliers to the wind industry. Yet, the MacIver News Service was only able to identify 31 jobs at those companies which were specifically tied to wind energy related products.

Manufacturers told MacIver News that other employees might work on wind-related products occasionally, but it does not represent the bulk of their workload.

Another 1,077 workers are listed among the secondary suppliers and we did not investigate that claim.

VAL-FAB, one of the companies listed as both a primary and secondary supplier, explained to MacIver News that it initially had high hopes for the wind energy industry that never materialized. The company specializes in fabrication for the energy sector.

William Capelle, Director of Business Development at VAL-FAB, said “At first we thought we might be able to manufacture the actual towers, but it turns out 90 percent of those are imported from Spain.”

Since the MacIver News Service first examined the Wisconsin Wind Works database, the number of companies listed has increased to 360.

A reporter attempted to contact the organization for comment about the veracity of their data, but Wisconsin wind Works, which solicits members by selling itself as the
“preferred partner of wind energy professionals,” did not respond.

They are, however, holding a Wind Energy Symposium in Milwaukee on October 13th.

Meanwhile the Office of Energy Independence continues to pursue the Doyle Administration’s green energy policies.

As Doyle said during his final State of the State address, “anyone who says there aren’t jobs in the clean energy economy had better open their eyes.”

There is no doubt that some jobs in the wind industry exist in Wisconsin. The accurate number of these ‘green jobs’ is proving to be, at best, elusive

Representatives of Doyle’s office did not respond to repeated request for comments regarding the information contained within this article.

 

WIND POWER WANES WITH FADING FEDERAL INCENTIVES

SOURCE: NPR, www.npr.org

September 6, 2010

by Jeff Brady,

Wind power, one of the largest segments of the renewable energy market, will experience a sharp decline in growth this year.

The slowdown comes as a surprise because the stimulus bill, which President Obama signed into law 18 months ago, included a big boost for renewable forms of electricity in the form of $43 billion for energy projects.

Last year, 10,000 megawatts of wind power were brought online in the United States — that’s enough to power nearly 300,000 homes. In 2010, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, that number will be 57 percent lower. It will be the first time in six years that the growth rate of the wind industry will actually decline.

There are several reasons for this, but probably the biggest factor has to do with government incentives. The wind industry typically rises and falls with the passing and expiration of federal tax credits.

Depending On Federal Subsidies

Wind projects are expensive to build, so developers have depended on federal subsidies that encourage investment in renewable energy.

When the credit markets dried up in 2008, so did the money for new projects. The White House and Congress threw the industry a lifeline with the stimulus package in the form of investment tax credits.

Right now, if you build a wind project, the government will, essentially, cut you a check for 30 percent of the cost. But that incentive is running out of rope and scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. That deadline prompted a lot of activity last year.

“Everybody moved their projects forward into 2009 to take advantage of it,” says George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project. But now, he says, some developers are waiting to see if the credit will be extended.

And with natural gas relatively cheap now, some utilities are choosing to build gas power plants rather than wind farms.

In response, the wind industry says it needs a federal mandate — a law that would tell those utilities they have to buy more renewable forms of energy.

“We’re kind of stuck without that long-term policy in place that sends the signals to the utilities that they need to purchase wind as part of a diversified portfolio,” says Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

A Renewable Energy Mandate

Obama has said he supports a renewable energy mandate. Getting it passed this fall is one of the wind industry’s priorities as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill.

The wind industry is still growing this year, just not as fast as last year, or the year before that.

“We are well on our way to doubling U.S. renewable generation capacity in the U.S., which is what the president had committed to,” says Matt Rogers, a senior adviser for Recovery Act implementation at the Department of Energy.

The question now is whether that pace can be maintained. Rogers says it would help to have more certainty when it comes to tax policy and other incentives. That would give investors and wind energy developers the information they need to make long-term plans instead of waiting around for the next government lifeline.

´╗┐SECOND NEWS FEATURE

SOURCE: The Oklahoman, newsok.com

September 5 2010

BY CHRIS CASTEEL,

The Obama administration’s emphasis on clean energy and the fight in Congress over energy legislation is creating some tension among certain sectors, including the natural gas and wind power industries.

The American Wind Energy Association has been fighting to counter a recent column in The Wall Street Journal that challenged a key selling point of wind — that it reduces carbon emissions. The industry also is defending its federal subsidies, arguing that they are actually less than those received by oil and gas companies.

“We’ve been under attack by the fossil fuel industry for the last six months,” Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, told reporters in July.

Bode is a former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, but she’s also a former head of the Washington-based trade group for independent oil and gas producers and was a highly visible advocate for the natural gas industry when she worked for the American Clean Skies Foundation.

Now, her organization is claiming that an oil and gas company trade group and think tanks financed in part with energy money are spreading misinformation to discredit wind as a renewable energy source.

Report released

The Western Energy Alliance, formerly the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, released a report earlier this year that concluded renewable electricity mandates had actually caused pollution increases in Texas and Colorado because coal and natural gas plants operated less efficiently to accommodate the variability in wind sources.

The study was cited in The Wall Street Journal column, written by Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and that column was then cited by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.

Bryce questioned whether wind energy’s contribution to reducing emissions would ever be significant and argued that the emphasis should be on natural gas.

Opposed to mandates

The wind energy association countered last week with Department of Energy figures showing carbon emissions had dropped steadily in Texas and Colorado as wind power was added to the mix. And it has cited studies projecting that emissions would drop by as much as 25 percent if wind generated 20 percent of electric power in the country.

It’s not just a fight between wind versus natural gas in Washington and beyond; there are lobbying battles between coal and natural gas and nuclear versus renewable sources.

And the stakes could be high.

Though pre-election fighting could further stall passage of energy legislation in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week that he still hopes to pass a bill before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

And Reid said he hopes to include a national renewable energy standard — a requirement for utilities to use a certain amount of renewable energy.

The wind energy association has been pushing hard for a renewable standard, arguing that it would spur manufacturing jobs while reducing emissions.

But lawmakers from states in the southeastern United States, where wind isn’t as plentiful or as easy to harness, have been strongly opposed to mandates for renewable energy.

Others watch, wait

Trade groups for oil and gas companies, including the Independent Petroleum Association of America, have not taken a public position on a renewable energy standard.

Jeff Eshelman, a spokesman for the group, said the organization has always cited the importance of all domestic energy sources.

“However, we do take issue with proposals that call for taxing American oil and natural gas companies to subsidize nonconventional energy resources,” he said.

The oil and gas industry has been pushing hard since President Barack Obama took office against his proposals to change tax rules the industry considers vital.

Democratic members of Congress also have proposed higher fees and penalties for offshore drilling.

Some lawmakers have promoted a broader mandate, called the clean energy standard, which would allow for more than just renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. And groups representing natural gas companies have argued that natural gas should be included in such a standard.

Bode recently suggested that the industry’s future is dependent on a renewable energy standard, and she said she was in the fight “to the bitter end.”

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