Throughout the entire first half of 2015, solar and wind energy accounted for 2,518 megawatts of new electricity generating capacity brought online in the US — some 65 percent of all new capacity added so far this year.
Coal accounted for a mere 3 MW during that time period, while natural gas accounted for 1,173 MW (there was no new oil). That’s less than half the amount of solar and wind energy added January to June. Wind alone, at 1,969 MW, was more than all fossil fuels combined.
Here are the full numbers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest Energy Infrastructure Update:
“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, said in response to the update. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding 'Yes!'”
Despite the tangible economic and environmental benefits of their huge growth in recent years, the US solar and wind industries are still facing a looming threat due to uncertainty over federal tax incentives.
The Senate Finance Committee just approved a tax bill that would reinstate the wind production tax credit (PTC), which expired on January 1, 2014 after Senate Republicans basically killed it. ThinkProgress reports the renewed tax credit would be worth $10.5 billion over 10 years and would last through December 31, 2016.
Fossil fuels are estimated to receive $135 billion in federal subsidies over the next decade from the US government, so it’s understandable that investors are weary of the long-term prospects of wind and solar, which, despite on-again, off-again support from the federal government, still must fight for every bit of market share they can get.
The two renewable energy technologies combined still only represent less than eight percent of total installed capacity in the US, after all, compared to natural gas at 42.66 percent and coal still hanging on at 26.83 percent, per the FERC data.
Which is why environmentalists and wind energy supporters want Congress to go further by adopting a more long-term solution.
“Wind power is gaining strength but in the context of tax extenders, this Congress must extend the PTC and [the investment tax credit] for the longest possible time to avoid pushing American wind power off a cliff,” the American Wind Energy Association’s Jim Reilly told ThinkProgress.
The solar industry is expecting a surge in business as a variety of investment tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2016. Without any further action from Congress to promote the clean energy technologies of the future, however, the surge is guaranteed not to last.
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