Big boost for wind and solar in budget bill

Gigi Douban Dec 17, 2015
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Big boost for wind and solar in budget bill

Gigi Douban Dec 17, 2015
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Some big energy industry news is included in the more than 2,000 page document that is the omnibus spending bill under consideration by Congress. One provision would end a decades old ban on exporting crude oil from the U.S. But the bill also includes a five year extension on solar and wind tax credits, which some forecasters say would be a huge boost to the domestic renewable energy market.

The cost of renewable energy — especially solar — has dropped enormously over the last few years. Something like 70 or 80 percent, in some places. That’s thanks in part to the government’s industry tax credits. And if these new incentives come through, consumers can expect to pay even less for solar panels and electricity on the grid.

“The more solar energy we install, the more we learn about how to make it cheaper, which in turn leads to more solar energy being bought and used,” said Michael Levi, director of the Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies and author of “The Power Surge.”

Ethan Zindler, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said right now the U.S. has about 100 gigawatts of wind and solar installed.

“With these changes we anticipate an approximate doubling of wind and solar over the next five years,” he said.

The U.S generates about five percent of its electricity from wind and solar energy. That would jump to about 10 percent. And the new tax credits could be a boost of more than $70 billion across the industry, Zindler said.

The bad news, according to Levi, is that there’s still no big bang that’s going to solve our carbon emissions problem all at once.

“But this is a pretty substantial down payment on reducing emissions, and more important on driving down technology costs,” he said.

The same technology that will allow us to cut emissions in the longer term.

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