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Wind, solar groups push US renewable energy standard

* Stimulus funds powered most renewables to expand in 2009

* Energy groups stress domestic job creation

* Call for federal energy standard, extended tax credits

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) – U.S. industry executives from the wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass sectors pushed on Tuesday for a federal renewable energy standard, which they said would foster economic growth and create jobs.

A federal standard could spur these industries at a time when China is moving swiftly into alternative energy production, said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

If Congress establishes a federal renewable energy standard, a percentage of the energy generated in the United States would have to come from renewable sources.

Some 30 countries — including China and the European Union countries — and 29 U.S. states already have renewable energy standards, Bode said in a telephone news briefing. President Barack Obama has urged Congress to set a national standard that would require 25 percent renewable power by 2025. But lawmakers have yet to act.

While 2009 was generally a year of expansion for renewable U.S. energy firms, Bode said, Chinese companies outpaced their competitors. China surpassed Germany to become the world’s biggest builder of wind turbines and it added the largest amount of new generating capacity.

“The Chinese activity really lends an urgency to helping Congress and the administration to act on a renewable energy standard,” she said.

Obama also supports legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions — such as those from fossil-fueled power plants — that contribute to climate change, but such a measure stalled in the Senate last year.

Executives from the National Hydropower Association, the Biomass Power Association, the Geothermal Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association called for strong short- and long-term targets for a renewable energy standard.

They also called for an extension of tax incentives and praised continuing support for renewable energy in the administration’s economic stimulus package.

Robert Cleaves, CEO of the biomass group, said thousands of jobs could be lost if Congress fails to extend a production tax credit that expired late last year.

For companies in the solar power sector, association president Rhone Resch said 2009 was a banner year. Resch said the outlook for 2010 was even sunnier, with most analysts seeing growth of 100 percent or more for the industry.

All of the executives stressed the ability of their industries to create U.S. jobs in manufacturing and installation, which cannot be outsourced.