Facts Show Renewable Energy Success

Renewable Power is Increasingly Economical and Poised for Explosive Growth in The United States

Fierce Energy
February 22, 2013

DBL Part­ners’ Man­ag­ing Part­ner Nancy Pfund is quoted in this Fierce Energy piece about the recent Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Renew­able Energy (ACORE) pol­icy forum brain­storm­ing ses­sion.  Indus­try ana­lysts and oth­ers with inter­ests in the renew­ables space used the forum to out­line what the mix of renew­ables and legacy energy sources should look like in future energy pol­icy.  The costs of renew­ables like solar and wind have fallen to the point where some (wind, specif­i­cally) are on par with coal.  The stage is set for “explo­sive” growth in renew­ables, and ensur­ing a healthy mix of them in energy pol­icy will see that through.  

There are plenty of mis­con­cep­tions about the costs and ben­e­fits of renew­able energy. But while opin­ions vary as to the effec­tive­ness of gen­er­a­tion sources such as wind and solar, facts are indis­putable. And the facts show that renew­able power is increas­ingly eco­nom­i­cal and poised for explo­sive growth in the United States.

While the U.S. actu­ally saw sub­stan­tial decline in the renew­able energy invest­ment dol­lars from 2011–2012 (from $300 bil­lion down to $270 bil­lion), that’s a mis­lead­ing fig­ure. The drop can be attrib­uted, in part, to falling costs of renew­able energy mate­ri­als, and increased energy use. In fact, 2012 was a record year for U.S. installed renew­able capac­ity at 17.4 GW.

Facts show that renewable power is increasingly economical and poised for explosive growth in the United States. Read more: Facts show renewable energy success - FierceEnergy http://www.fierceenergy.com/story/facts-show-renewable-energy-success/2013-02-19#ixzz2LaQ6SzDS Subscribe: http://www.fierceenergy.com/signup?sourceform=Viral-Tynt-FierceEnergy-FierceEnergy

Facts show that renew­able power is increas­ingly eco­nom­i­cal and poised for explo­sive growth in the United States.

Solar had a very strong year, but really wind was the big win­ner over­all in terms of capac­ity,” said Ethan Zindler, head of pol­icy analy­sis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Zindler was part of a gath­er­ing of energy ana­lysts at a recent Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Renew­able Energy (ACORE) pol­icy forum, which high­lighted indus­try advance­ments and acted as a brain­storm­ing ses­sion for the future of renew­able energy pol­icy. While not opti­mistic about how renew­able energy would fare over the next cou­ple years, Zindler noted that these tech­nolo­gies — wind, in par­tic­u­lar — are approach­ing cost par­ity with coal generation.

Renew­ables enjoy falling costs

A Bloomberg New Energy Finance analy­sis shows a 20–30 per­cent drop in the lev­elized costs (with­out sub­si­dies) of pho­to­voltaic tech­nol­ogy over the past 12 months, and the price of wind gen­er­a­tion con­tin­ues to be down.  “The short answer is that, in a num­ber of cases, these tech­nolo­gies really are now very much get­ting close to being com­pet­i­tive with their fos­sil rivals,” Zindler said.

Mak­ing costs more rea­son­able is a prod­uct of increased invest­ment and research, and much of it was spurred from the Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009, a pol­icy move that pumped sub­stan­tial cash into renew­able energy. The ulti­mate goal is to see the cost of solar, wind and geot­her­mal sys­tems con­tinue to fall. This is becom­ing increas­ingly nec­es­sary as nat­ural gas prices remain at his­toric lows.

Renew­ables will go toe-​​to-​​toe with nat­ural gas in the com­ing years, as state Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dards and U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency reg­u­la­tions make it tougher to build new coal gen­er­a­tion and more cum­ber­some to keep old units operating.

Impor­tance of con­tin­ued pol­icy support

Just as pol­icy can encour­age devel­op­ment, its absence can stunt it. Renew­ables spend­ing slowed recently over fear of revoked renew­able pro­duc­tion tax cred­its and subsidies.

In time, the renew­ables indus­try will cer­tainly thrive on its own. But for now, pol­icy is crit­i­cal to sup­port­ing renew­able energy growth.

Not only will pol­icy offer much needed finan­cial sup­port, but it is also part of the country’s her­itage, accord­ing to Nancy Pfund, man­ag­ing part­ner at ven­ture cap­i­tal firm DBL Partners.

Even from the early days of land grants and coal rail­road devel­op­ment, the gov­ern­ment has played a crit­i­cal role in sup­port­ing the emer­gence of new tech­nolo­gies in the energy field and tran­si­tion­ing us from one to the other,” Pfund said, speak­ing at the ACORE forum.

Few of those pre­sent­ing at the forum pro­jected wide-​​sweeping energy leg­is­la­tion to hit any time soon.  But absent a com­pre­hen­sive energy reform bill, there are likely to be incre­men­tal changes to help erect a stronger energy roadmap, includ­ing focus­ing on con­tin­u­ing sup­port for fund­ing that could fur­ther drive down the cost of renewables.

Per­haps Con­gress should also heed research that demon­strates a grow­ing num­ber Amer­i­cans want and sup­port renew­able energy.

All the polls, all the stud­ies show that American’s love solar energy and they want the gov­ern­ment to pur­sue poli­cies that sup­port it,” Pfund said. She pre­dicted that over the next few years, the renew­able energy dis­cus­sion will shift from pol­icy pro­fes­sion­als to the broader con­sumer marketplace.

This con­sumer sup­port also cre­ates an oppor­tu­nity for util­i­ties to work with law­mak­ers in dri­ving renew­able energy pol­icy and growth, she said.

All in all, the facts seem to be pil­ing up on the side of renew­able energy. Pol­icy reform has been shown to work, and has dri­ven costs down. Like­wise, a lack of firm pol­icy has slowed advance­ment, again a tes­ta­ment to it’s poten­tial effec­tive­ness. The next few years will be crit­i­cal and chal­leng­ing for renew­ble energy, but as long as installed capac­ity con­tin­ues to grow, and the facts demon­strate improve­ment, it will be tough to make the argu­ment against these gen­er­a­tion sources and the poli­cies that sup­port them.