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Federal Tax Credits Will Now Help Deploy As Many As 53 Gigawatts of Clean Energy. Thanks To You

Nathanael Greene, Director of Renewable Energy Policy, New York City

There’s great news out this week about the federal tax credits for wind and solar power that were extended as part of December’s omnibus spending bill: By 2020, these tax incentives–the Production Tax Credit for Wind Power and the Solar Investment Tax Credit–will, all on their own, help deploy as many as 53 gigawatts of wind and solar power. That’s enough to juice up almost 14 million homes. Importantly, they can cut carbon pollution from our country’s electric sector by at least 540 million metric tonnes cumulatively between 2016 and 2030. (On average, over the 15-year period, that’s 36 million tons of reductions, or the equivalent of taking nearly 8 million cars off the road.) Those are the results reported in a new evaluation of the tax credits’ impacts, conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

12107117_10153258700048995_6644999036908806943_n.jpgOver the next 5 years, federal renewable energy tax credits will help deploy 48-53 gigawatts of clean energy. Supporters across the country helped get the legislation through a bogged-down Congress. Good work! (Photo: Vote Solar)

Of course, those numbers are good news for our climate: When it comes to combating climate change, the more renewable energy we deploy, and the faster we deploy it, the better. And it’s good news for our growing national renewable energy industry, which now employs more than 280,000 workers in wind and solar power alone. (Job numbers weren’t included in the NREL analysis. But industry watchers predict that they’ll climb along with deployment.)

All this wind and solar power deployment is good news for our health, too: Displacing dirty fossil-fuel power with renewable energy means we’ll have cleaner air to breathe and we’ll cut down on the startlingly high numbers of premature deaths that occur in the US each year as a result of air pollution. (In fact, the US sees about 80,000 air-pollution-related deaths annually. That’s about twice the number who die from breast cancer.)

Americans overwhelmingly favor government support for clean energy, as poll after poll shows. And though these tax credits were bogged down in Congress, our collective efforts on their behalf–our visits to elected officials, our letters to the editor, our lawn signs and marches–helped renew them, despite many delays. Now that NREL has calculated their impacts, it’s empowering to know how much impact, together, we clean energy supporters can have.

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Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Feb 26, 2016 1:48 am GMT

they can cut carbon pollution from our country’s electric sector by at least 540 million metric tonnes cumulatively between 2016 and 2030. (On average, over the 15-year period, that’s 36 million tons of reductions, or the equivalent of taking nearly 8 million cars off the road.)

Out of more than five billion tons per year of emissions in the USA, this delays our date with Climate Armageddon by roughly 5 weeks.  And at what cost?

Americans overwhelmingly favor government support for clean energy, as poll after poll shows.

That’s because

  • they’ve been lied to about what’s “clean”,
  • they’ve been lied to about what it accomplishes, and
  • they’ve been lied to about what it’s costing them.

The 181,655 million kWh of wind generation in 2014, at a tax loss to the Treasury of 3.538¢/kWh (2.3¢/0.65), cost the US taxpayer about $6.4 billion per year.  That figure is higher today both because of more wind generation and also projects which take more lucrative tax credits than the PTC (the ITC).  $6.4 billion would roughly buy a brand-new AP1000 outright every year.  If we spent half as much (1.77¢/kWh pre-tax) on a PTC for carbon-free dispatchable generators, not only would none of the nuclear plants in the USA be at risk of shutdown, but we could probably entice the industry into expanding.  $6.4 billion per year at 1.77¢/kWh is 363,152 million kWh.  If it displaced NGCC plants at 450 gCO2/kWh, it would eliminate 163 million tons of CO2 emissions per year—4.5 times as much as the renewables.  If nuclear displaced open-cycle gas turbines at 670 gCO2/kWh, it would eliminate 243 million tons of emissions per year—over 3.6 billion tons over 15 years.  Simply put, trying to cut air emissions using tax credits for wind and PV is a waste of money.

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