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Renewable energy money still going abroad, despite criticism from Congress

Money from the 2009 stimulus bill to help support the renewable energy industry continues to flow overseas, despite Congressional criticism and calls for change, according to a new analysis of the program by the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

The Workshop was the first to report last October that more than 80 percent of the first $1 billion in grants to wind energy companies went to foreign firms. Since then, the administration has stopped making announcements of new grants to wind, solar and geothermal companies, but has handed out another $1 billion, bringing the total given out to $2.1 billion and the total that went to companies based overseas to more than 79 percent.

There's several things here:

  • grants going to foreign companies (mainly European): this is just the consequence of the fact that the main investors in US wind are European companies. For every $ of DoE grant, they're spending an additional $2.3 of their money to invest in US clean energy (or getting banks to finance it - and these banks are also almost exclusively European);
  • a lot of the money spent on US wind projects goes to imports; this is linked to insufficient US turbine manufacturing capacity; this is the result of years of incoherent regulatory changes (the stop-n-go PTC, mainly) that have scared manufacturing investment away. A few years of consistent policies will get that investment in. But not one year of policy.
  • 2009 was a strange year for wind, with almost 6 months of nothing happening because of the crisis. This caused job losses in project development and turbine manufacture, even if the stimulus helped kick start more projects by the end of the year. So jobs were lost in manufacturing (after a huge build up in 2008) while more jobs were created in O&M. Next year should see more jobs in manufacturing (and yet more in O&M).
  • also, the change from a per kWh PTC support mechanism (pid out over 10 years) to upfront grants makes the amounts look large compared to the number of construction jobs involved (there are more jobs in long term O&M) - but this is a amount of money spent today that will have positive benefits for 20+ years.
  • of course, no one worries about the cost in extra imports for other energy sources (you know, like oil or gas).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 11th, 2010 at 03:23:42 PM EST
I just picked up a communication project for CLEEN (Cluster for Environment and ENergy) a new front end for all the Finnish companies in these areas. The aim is to establish multidisciplinary research programs in specific areas, like a next generation reciprocating engine, smart grids, sustainable fuel chains - but as yet nothing on wind, although some of the Finnish companies like The Switch are involved in some programs.

I don't really understand why Finland is not putting more into wind. Even if Finland is not the best location for wind power, Finish industry is well equipped for supplying a lot of the advanced technology. And if the skills and locations exist to build the world's largest cruise ships, they also exist to build the turbine mounting structures.

I'm slowly getting through all the basic research information. It's very interesting.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Feb 11th, 2010 at 03:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How many Americans are being employed with those dollars?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 02:35:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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