The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), United Steelworkers (USW), and the BlueGreen Alliance held a teleconference to discuss the release of their joint report, titled “Winds of Change: A Manufacturing Blueprint for the Wind Industry,” which they hope will inspire the U.S. to action before it falls behind the rest of the renewable energy embracing world.
The comprehensive report is a call from the wind industry and certain key supporters to push for more concrete commitments from the U.S. to ensure the growth of the wind energy industry and the multitude of American manufacturing jobs that can be established through it.
The development of renewable energy has been steadily growing as the potential economic and environmental perks become increasingly apparent to both energy providers and consumers. In 2009, the wind industry alone added more than 10 gigawatts of new generating power which translates to roughly 2 percent of America’s electricity and 18,500 jobs.
With nearly a seven- fold employment increase over the last five years, the industry has enjoyed a robust growth while establishing itself in the United States, but the report is quick to point out this relatively new domestic market is starting to stall. The U.S. simply does not have the right policies or incentives in place to help it thrive.
Without long-term strategic policies such as a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) in place the report warns that America is faced with either making changes to support an industry that will enhance innovation and profit or being complacent with a future laden with industry stagnation and continued energy dependence.
HOW MANY JOBS COULD IT CREATE? DO WE KNOW?
The Winds of Change reports proposes there is the potential for tens of thousands of additional jobs in manufacturing wind turbines and their myriad components if the U.S. puts in place policies that create a stable market for the domestic wind energy supply chain.
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A leading renewable energy advocate Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has been at the forefront of the clean energy push in Washington and was blunt in expressing the importance of the report’s message:
“This report represents a major alignment between our goals for energy independence and creating the clean energy jobs of the future,” said the Senator. “This ‘manufacturing blueprint’ is a critical step toward ensuring that we don’t replace our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on Chinese-made wind turbines. With the right policies, clean energy will help revitalize American manufacturing. We must ensure that American manufacturers have the resources they need to build clean wind energy components and by doing so, help establish America as a global leader of clean energy technologies.”
The report follows a recent announcement by AWEA and USW on a “framework agreement” to drive the development and operations of wind energy production in the U.S. As well as recommending a federal RES of 25 percent by 2025 with effective mid-term targets, the report also outlines steps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and policies specifically aimed at building the U.S. wind energy manufacturing sector.
David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, expressed just how precarious a place the U.S. is in when it comes to helping the renewable energy industry flourish.
“Failure to act presents the very real danger that the United States will fall further behind in the race for clean energy and the manufacturing jobs that come along with it,” said Foster. “We need to pass a comprehensive plan now to establish the United States as the global leader in clean energy technologies.”
The Winds of Change report has no shortage of strategic solutions; what has the wind industry worried is how indifferent and often indecisive the U.S. has been in taking the steps necessary to nurture it. The release of the report is timely, coming just as Congress is expected to formulate a comprehensive climate and energy bill in July and strongly recommends passing Senator Sherrod Brown’s IMPACT Act (the Investments in Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology Act of 2009), which creates a state-level revolving low interest loan fund of $30 billion dollars to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers retool for clean energy markets and adopt energy efficient manufacturing.
The report goes on to support extension and fortification of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, fully funding the Green Jobs Act, and offering specific incentives and accountability provisions to maximize domestic job creation that will demonstrate to both foreign and domestic investors that the U.S. is truly ready to make a long-term commitment the success and expansion of the clean energy industry.