Modest Steps Could Add Up To Big Success For Clean Energy In 2013

by Noah Ginsberg, via the American Council on Renewable Energy

Looking back at 2012, one thing is certain in the sea of the year’s uncertainty; renewable energy experienced significant growth.

The U.S. solar industry grew at a rate of 13.2%.  A global oversupply of solar panels lowered prices for American consumers, resulting in higher demand and greater profits for solar installation companies. SolarCity’s IPO proved to be successful despite claims that its stock would immediately plummet. And even with excessive political attacks by opponents of renewable energy – over $250 million spent in the 2012 election – the industry has gained strong public support across the country.  Industries such as wind, biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, electric transportation, and solar have achieved success in 2012 but the next step in supporting growth is creating a more stable policy landscape.

Creating a stable policy landscape should start with an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expires at the end of 2012. The PTC has been very effective in bringing wind energy and other renewable energy sources to scale, unlocking billions of dollars in private investment for wind energy. It encouraged the development of almost 4 GW of wind energy in the first ten months of 2012 alone. The PTC has also contributed to a 38% drop in project development costs for wind farms in the past four years. In order to continue the strong trajectory the industry is on, an extension of the PTC for 2013 and beyond is needed, albeit with an appropriate timeline for a phaseout.

Adopting legislation to qualify renewables as Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) would also attract additional capital into renewable energy development. According to Secretary Chu of the Department of Energy, if MLP legislation is signed into law and renewable energy is considered a “qualified” energy source under MLP legislation, there will be a significant increase in investments in renewable energy development. Furthermore, it will create a stable financial landscape for both small and large-scale investors who wish to enter the market. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware has proposed MLP legislation for renewable energy and his legislation may see bipartisan support in the early months of 2013.

Every year, critics of renewable energy get louder even as the prices of electricity generated from renewable sources decrease. Although 2012 was an election year and political attacks were targeted at renewable energy, the industry braved the storm. The business case for renewable energy has gotten stronger in 2012 and will continue to do so – even if there are some bumps on the horizon.

Now more than ever, the potential, production, and capacity for renewable energy are enormous, but with sound energy policy the potential is exponentially greater. Political gridlock is looming in 2013. The year may not start the way anybody wants it to, but it still has the potential to end on a very high note for American renewable energy.

Noah Ginsberg is a Communications Associate for ACORE. This piece was originally published at ACORE and was reprinted with permission.

18 Responses to Modest Steps Could Add Up To Big Success For Clean Energy In 2013

  1. Paul Klinkman says:

    These are woulda shoulda coulda bills. We’ll take them if they come along, but the Republicans especially (and more than a few Dems) will demand that we pry these bills from their cold, dead, oil-covered hands. (In certain cases that was in fact arranged for them last November) Trillions to defend someone else’s oilfield, but not a penny for renewables unless we pay the price.

    Next we get to the world of political benign neglect, where almost the entire environmental community seems to not understand which side of their bread is buttered. The research money, what there is, goes to huge corporations and huge universities where they supply the first million and the government supplies the second million. What’s wrong with this picture? Next, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office legalizes corporate espionage of inventions on March 16, 2013. So how many decades do you citizens all want to wait for innovation to lower the cost of solar below natural gas, to put the gasoline-powered automobile into museums and to geoengineer the Arctic in an environmentally benign way?

  2. Superman1 says:

    There is sufficient CO2 we have placed in the atmosphere that if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, the temperature would continue to rise for 30-40 years to the vicinity of 2 C. At that point, it has entered the regime that Kevin Anderson calls Extremely Dangerous. Not only will extreme events increase drastically, but the probability increases that we could experience ‘runaway’ temperature from positive feedback mechanisms that we are seeing already.

    To prevent this catastrophe from occurring, three conditions are required: stop burning fossil fuels ASAP; reforest ASAP to extract CO2 from the atmosphere; perform some geo-engineering to ‘quench’ the positive feedback mechanisms. The American public, and indeed the majority of the planet’s citizens, would never agree to the first condition voluntarily. How can we avoid destroying life on this planet before the end of this century; that’s where we are heading?

    There is only one slim chance that I see for survival. Our military leaders and their intelligence counterparts understand what lies ahead, and it will affect their grandchildren along with everyone else’s. At some point, to save their grandchildren, they, and possibly their counterparts from Russia and China and Britain, will use the levers of power they control and, one way or another, implement CO2 reduction worldwide.

  3. John McCormick says:

    Superman1, Don’t mention the crazy idea that our form of government, as dis-functional as we see it to be, will ever, could ever, be welcomed and be replaced by our military. Where have you been for the past 70 years?

  4. Jim Baird says:

    To prevent the catastrophe a few million parents and grandparents have to take matters concerning the future of their offsprings into their own hands.

  5. Superman1 says:

    Sorry, there is zero evidence that the voluntary democratic government has made, is making, or will make any progress toward resolving this climate change problem at all. Where have you been the last thirty years? You have a time series of thirty annual points, all zeroes. Why do you think that will change? We have one slim chance for survival beyond the end of the century, at best, and I have outlined it above.

  6. Superman1 says:

    I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on that one. McKibben is calling for a target turnout of 20,000 people at his February 18 rally. 20,000! We had twenty times that many, and more, at demonstrations against the War forty years ago; even that wasn’t enough. Parents and grandparents have abandoned their small children to a future of unspeakable horror. There is only one group that can turn the situation around, assuming it is not too late, and I have outlined it above.

  7. Paul Klinkman says:

    I need evidence that reforestation works long-term. Doesn’t the whole forest eventually burn up in one big megafire?

    Do certain forests work? Do certain types of forests — redwood groves, for example — not burn? Does swampland work better because it doesn’t burn? Do we harvest and biochar any of the forest, then bury it, to preserve the carbon for an average of 2500 years? Inquiring minds want to know these details.

    My own sequestration plan involves the mass production of algae, possibly using the biodiesel in cars and definitely burying the cell husks. It’s going to be lots of work, but our country needs 50 million more jobs and our world needs much less CO2, so let’s get on with it.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Matt Owens posted the link I use below on the weekend Open Thread. I want to bring it more to the attention of Climate Progress with the hope of a separate thread about this. Here is what I post where I can:

    Some sea level rise consequences from Fairfax Climate Watch:
    which uses conservative (in the engineering sense) estimates of future SLR.

    The growth of sea level is actually not exponential but rather sigmoid, i.e., S-shaped. Otherwise, the article is well done.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    One uses managed tree plantations. Once a tree stops putting on mass fast enough, convert it to biochar. The pyrolysis produces about 1/4 gas, burned to heat the pyrolysis reactor, 1/2 liquid, suitable as transportation fuel (possibly after refinement) and 1/4 biochar. Crushing the biochar produces coal which is better than natural coal. Bury that deep underground and it will stay there as long as coal does.

    It will take a lot of trees:
    Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming

  10. Joan Savage says:

    “It will take a lot of trees”
    Be careful what you ask for..

    Trees worldwide a sip away from dehydration

    Seventy percent of the 226 tree species in forests around the world routinely function near the point where a serious drought would stop water transport from their roots to their leaves, says plant physiologist Brendan Choat of the University of Western Sydney in Richmond, Australia. Trees even in moist, lush places operate with only a slim safety margin between them and a thirsty death.

    “This is the first time that we’ve looked across all forest [types] and seen that there’s a convergence on risky behavior,” Choat says.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Thanks Joan, I was going to ask David where he thought Australia was going to get the water from, ME

  12. Spike says:

    In the UK Scotland continues to blaze the trail, putting the coalition in Westminster to shame with its clean energy deployment.

  13. Spike says:

    Denmark generates more than one-quarter of its electricity by wind energy alone, and a total of 43% of Danish electricity is generated with renewable sources of energy. And community ownership is very big.Both the new Danish government and the previous conservative government have ambitious plans. Denmark’s official policy by two successive governments is 50% of electricity in 2020 will be supplied by wind energy and 100% of electricity and heat by 2035.

  14. Joan Savage says:

    The original Hansen and Saito paper is more technical, but still very readable.

    It can be obtained at

    and downloaded from the link labeled:

    Dec. 26, 2012: Update of Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Loss. Discussion of how the loss rate is changing.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Paul, we need all òf the above. Trếes may very well bủrn, so we’ll have to plant them again. Forests are refuges for biodiversity, sources òf fuel and biochar (which increases soil fertility)suppliers of food and capturers òf CO2. They are good for the soul, tôo, and we’ll need to do a lot òf ‘soul-work’ in the decades ahead.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Spike, you cannot put the shameless to shame. Shame died amongst the Cameron gang long ago, even before the conscious Big Lie òf the hollow promise to be the ‘Greenest ever UK Government’.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Which makes their shameful role in the Western shennanigans at Copenhagen even mỏre lamentable.

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Notice the title includes “irrigated”.

    Sea water is desalinated and pumped into the tree plantation.

    The best source of energy to do so currently appears to be nuclear power plants. That may change if solar PV prices keep dropping.