Monday, November 13, 2006

Election 2006: AWEA Says New Congress Opens New Possibilities for Wind Energy Policies

[From the American Wind Energy Association's Wind Energy Weekly (11/10/06 edition):]

While renewable energy remains a bipartisan issue, the shift to a Democratic-controlled House and Senate opens up many new possibilities for broader policies aimed at positioning the wind industry as a major player in U.S. electricity production and environmental improvement, according to AWEA Legislative Director Jaime Steve.

“Those who control the Congress set the Congressional agenda, thus setting the markers on the playing field,” said Steve. “The old markers effectively limited that field to the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and improvements in transmission access. The new markers create additional avenues with respect to the PTC and transmission while also broadening the field on climate change, a national renewable energy requirement, small turbine incentives and investments in renewable energy research and development.” Added Steve: “Our time is now, and it is what we make of it.”

An extension of the PTC, AWEA’s No. 1 priority, enjoys broad bipartisan support. However, Democrats may seek opportunities to extend the credit faster and for a longer duration than in the past. On transmission access, change opens up the possibility that targeted transmission infrastructure development provisions could be inserted into smaller energy bills aimed at specific issues (as opposed to a broad, wide-ranging energy policy legislation).

AWEA also is in a better position to advance the establishment of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). This provision has gained Senate approval in the past but always been blocked by the previous House leadership. The industry also should be in a better position in the areas of climate change and creation of a new small turbine tax credit.

Whether run by Republicans or Democrats, the House operates on a strong “majority rule” basis with the party out of power having little impact on the direction of legislation. Importantly, it is the Chairman who sets the agenda. In the area of ever-important tax policy, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is set to become Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, replacing the retiring Republican Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). In the energy policy arena, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is set to become Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over not only energy but clean air and climate change issues. Dingell is a moderate Democrat who has expressed support for an RPS.

In the Senate Finance Committee, which has oversight over tax policy, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), will continue to be an important player as the senior Republican on the panel and an unparalleled leader on the PTC. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the likely Chairman, is also a strong supporter of the PTC.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)—a long-time leader on issues including the PTC, RPS, climate change, and transmission for wind—is likely to become Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, replacing Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

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