WASHINGTON, DC. – Up to 104 million tons of carbon pollution, the same produced by 4.7 million cars each year, could be eliminated by 2020 if Congress renews renewable energy tax credits, a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center said today.
Using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the report shows reinstatement of expired tax incentives could lead to the development of as much as 50,000 MW of wind power over the next five years, enough to power over 2.7 million homes.
“Wind power is steadily curbing emissions and helping to solve the climate crisis,” said Rob Sargent, senior director of Environment America’s Energy Programand a co-author of the report. “But we need government policies to provide steady support for this pollution-free energy resource to build our momentum in the fight against global warming.”
The report, Turning to the Wind, coincides with what has become an annual tradition in Congress: waiting until the last minute to renew clean energy tax incentives. The credits, which have helped spur wind power’s growth over the last two decades, expired at the end of last year, and any measure to reinstate them must be adopted before lawmakers adjourn for the year on December 18.
Earlier this week, more than 200 environmental groups and local elected officialsissued a letter to Congress urging the long-term renewal of both the Production Tax Credit, which primarily benefits onshore wind, and the Offshore Wind Investment Tax Credit, which allows developers to offset the capital costs of facility construction and primarily benefits offshore wind.
According to the report, offshore wind projects scheduled to be up and running by 2020 — including the nation’s first offshore wind farm off Rhode Island, which began construction this summer — could avert the same amount of carbon pollution produced by 2 million cars.
“Environment America’s report shows that wind energy can dramatically cut carbon emissions that cause climate change,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) “Rhode Island is leading the way in producing offshore pollution-free energy, while reducing costs for consumers. That’s why I strongly support tax incentives for energy companies that provide clean, renewable electricity. It’s a win for the environment and a win for the American economy.”
“We’re proud that the Ocean State is home to America’s first offshore wind farm, and we’re confident this project is just the start of something much bigger,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “The waters off the East Coast are home to some of the country’s best offshore wind resources, and harnessing this potential will help protect our environment and transform our country’s energy future.”
“This report is yet further proof that offshore wind energy will mean reliable, homegrown power, cleaner air, and good-paying American jobs – it’s a win-win-win,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), who earlier this year introduced the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act, which would encourage investment in offshore wind energy. “Providing critical financial incentives helps create the nurturing environment the industry needs to grow and thrive. Instead of yearly extensions of the investment tax credit that fall short, a credit for the first actors will encourage private sector development of offshore wind facilities across the country and help move the United States closer to energy independence.”
The report shows that last year wind energy overall supplied enough electricity to power more than 16 million homes, and since 2001 has displaced more than 764 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – more than a year’s worth of carbon emissions from the entire country of Canada.
Nine states—Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota—generated more than 12 percent of their total electricity production with wind power last year.
As world leaders meet in Paris to hammer out an international agreement to slash climate-changing emissions, environmental advocates and wind energy representatives said wind power’s progress in the U.S. shows that the pollution-free resource can play a critical role in tackling the climate crisis.
“Regardless of whether you are working on the climate change issue or your passion is local economic development, it is worth your while to take a hard look at wind energy. Wind energy is affordable, reliable and clean, and it doesn’t use fresh water, and so its future is very bright,” said John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation.
“To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” said Sargent of Environment America, “and that must include doing everything we can to develop abundant, pollution-free wind power.”