Recent reports from IMS Research and the Energy Department suggest that energy production from solar and wind in the United States are set to rapidly increase in the coming years. Though China and Germany have dominated the race to create a robust clean energy sector so far, the United States has taken steps to close that gap. Tax incentives and an increased focus on sustainable energy has let the two major clean energy sectors (solar and wind) thrive.
Solar PV installations rose more than 120% in the first 6 months of 2012, with almost 1.7 GW installed capacity added to the grid. IMS states that by the end of the year, there will be at least 3.5 GW installed, which would give the US the world’s third-largest PV market.
The wind market has been similarly successful in recent years, as it has become one of the fastest growing energy industries in the country. 32% of all electric capacity added in 2011 came from wind, which has helped keep the price of wind power at a manageable rate. The price of wind energy under long-term power purchase contracts with utilities in 2011 was 40% lower than in 2010.
The rapid research and development of these two major industries has allowed for renewable energy to be competitive with fossil fuels for the first time in the history of our country. These industries create thousands of highly skilled technical and manufacturing jobs that are essential to a strong economy.
However, the incentives provided for solar and wind companies are being fought bitterly by the fossil fuel giants like Exxon and Shell. They want to keep the price of oil, coal, and gas artificially low so that sustainable resources are unable to compete.
The Production Tax Credit, which is set to expire at the end of 2012, is a major thorn in the side of big oil and gas. That is why they have lobbied hard for every member of Congress that is willing to let it expire.
The renewable energy debate has not been discussed in depth by either political candidate (although President Obama has publicly supported extending the PTC while Governor Romney has said he will let it expire). Clean energy is a vital US industry that has been booming in the past few years, providing valuable jobs to the American workforce while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
Luckily, the Clean Energy Victory Bond Act of 2012 would extend the PTC and allow the clean energy industry to fund even more research and development projects that will allow recent growth trends to continue. Any politician who supports the CEVB Act of 2012 is one who is casting a vote towards new jobs, economic growth, and a sustainable energy future for the United States.
Matthew Jennings is Green America’s Clean Energy Victory Bonds Outreach Fellow. He graduated from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill this May with a degree in Geography and a minor in Environmental Studies.