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STRATEGIC WIND ENERGY INITIATIVE

U.S. companies labor under a disadvantage in international markets, due to the strong and effective support many other countries provide their domestic wind turbine manufacturers. In addition to policies supporting domestic wind development, which are common throughout Western Europe, many countries provide foreign aid programs (grants or loans) that are specifically linked to the purchase of equipment from their domestic manufacturers. This so-called "tied aid" has become a key driver in the rapidly growing wind energy export markets. The U.S. has two options: (1) work to ban tied aid, which is likely to be unsuccessful; or (2) provide development assistance that is equally attractive and therefore provides a level playing field for U.S. manufacturers. AWEA believes the Export/Import Bank should be given authorization and appropriations sufficient to ensure that U.S. manufacturers are not disadvantaged and can compete effectively against growing reliance upon tied aid by some nations.

9. Incentives for developing countries to pursue wind projects.

Many developing countries have little incentive to use foreign energy technologies, whether wind, solar, or advanced gas, to reduce their emissions despite the fact that the most rapid growth in CO2 (and other) emissions is in the developing world. Two related activities could give both U.S. firms and developing countries incentives to develop wind projects. The first is joint implementation, a program under which firms from the developed countries can earn carbon offsets by building clean energy projects in the developing world. The U.S. should endorse and push for joint implementation to move from its current pilot project status to full-scale implementation. There is little or no cost to the U.S. Treasury for such a program, and substantial benefits would be provided to the U.S. economy through the thousands of jobs that would be created. The second activity is the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which can cover the incremental cost of developing environmentally benign or beneficial projects in the developing world, such as building a wind project instead of an apparently cheaper coal project. This incentive is particularly important for countries such as China and India, which have tremendous power needs and must build energy capacity quickly at the lowest possible cost.

10. A global resource assessment program aimed at mapping high quality wind sites.

The state of knowledge of wind resources today is comparable to the early days of the petroleum industry. Many people in those early days, including most of the later icons of the oil industry, believed oil would never replace coal and kerosene as the fuel of choice for the industrializing world. It was only after substantial exploration that the magnitude of the oil resource became understood. Similarly, little is known today about the wind resource in most countries, which means that it is virtually always underestimated and thus believed to be marginal in size. The U.S. should urge the United Nations, the World Bank, and other multilateral organizations to invest in wind resource assessment as they have in petroleum and geothermal exploration. In addition, the U.S. should agree to co-fund wind mapping activities with countries or international organizations that are willing to cost-share.

III. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF SUCH AN INITIATIVE?

A Strategic Wind Energy Initiative, while contributing to the campaign to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, would provide a series of additional environmental and economic benefits. A summary of these benefits includes:

Healthier Air and Water

Because wind produces no emissions of any kind, it not only displaces carbon dioxide, but also other harmful emissions produced by fossil fuels which contribute to smog, acid rain, and airborne particulates that impair respiratory functions. Though the combustion of natural gas produces no sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions, gas does produce significant amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates, as well as about 40% of the carbon emissions produced by coal.

Emissions Factors of Gas, Coal and Wind Technologies
(lb/MWh)
Pollutant Advanced Coal Advanced Gas Wind
Sulfur Oxides 0.83 0 0
Nitrogen Oxides 1.82 0.61 0
Particulates 0.14 0.10 0

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 90 million U.S. citizens still breathe air that is too dirty to meet existing air quality standards, even though those standards do not yet address fine particulates (perhaps the most dangerous emission to human health) or mercury emissions. Domestic air pollution kills over 50,000 persons annually--a death toll higher than that of traffic accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, pursuing the "high growth" case goal of 30,000 MW by 2010 could reduce electric sector emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides in that year by some 4-6%.

The Strategic Wind Energy Initiative would also fit well within a comprehensive electric-sector strategy for reducing carbon emissions that includes wind, other renewable technologies, energy efficiency measures, and cleaner fossil fuel technologies. Such a comprehensive strategy was proposed recently by several environmental groups and the Tellus Institute, which concluded that the strategy could reduce U.S. CO2 emissions to 27% below the 1990 level in 2010, and reduce sulfur, nitrogen, and particulate emissions by 78%, 48%, and 36%, respectively, while also reducing total electric sector costs.

Growing Economic Activity Based on Clean Energy

Increasing our domestic use of wind energy and supplying a growing share of multi-billion-dollar international wind technology markets also offers important economic benefits for the country. And since these benefits are based on clean energy, rather than fossil fuels, they do not carry concealed long-term economic costs such as environmental cleanup expenses, health care bills from air pollution and mercury deposition, and the like, which exert a hidden drag on economic growth.

This point bears repeating: a strategy that promotes renewables and wind is synergistic, encouraging economic growth while reducing damage to the environment, unlike most economic stimulation strategies that policymakers consider.

Positive economic impacts of the Strategic Wind Energy Initiative include:

Meeting Climate Change Goals Efficiently

Reducing carbon emissions from electric generation to the level required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations is most cost-effectively achieved through a combination of energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy--using the most cost- effective resources available from each, rather than over-relying on any one source.

To achieve carbon reductions without a significant contribution from renewables:

Within a few decades, the world economy must make a transition to non-carbon-based fuels, due to the limited supply of fossil fuels and the already saturated capacity of the atmosphere to absorb their emissions without dramatically altering the earths climate. A renewable energy infrastructure cannot be created spontaneously. It will take decades of sustained and predictable development to make the transition to a renewable energy future. We must begin now.

IV. CONCLUSION

A Strategic Wind Energy Initiative that includes the implementation of policies aimed at encouraging the installation of 30,000 MW of wind electric generation capacity in the U.S. by the year 2010 will:

For all of these reasons, the proposed Initiative should be a component of a comprehensive climate change policy.


1998 by the American Wind Energy Association.
May be freely distributed provided this notice is included.
All other rights reserved.

Written by: American Wind Energy Association


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