A new white paper report finds that wind energy is keeping electric bills low for American homes and businesses, thanks to plummeting wind energy costs driven by technological improvements. The report was compiled by staff at the American Wind Energy Association and uses publicly available data and more than a dozen studies from government, utility, and other independent sources to explore how wind energy affects consumers’ energy bills.
A major highlight of the report pulls from just-released Department of Energy data showing consumers in the states that use the most wind energy have fared much better than consumers in states that use less wind energy.
American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period. The following chart summarizes how consumers have fared in states that produce more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind (Texas, Wyoming, Oregon, Oklahoma, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa) relative to other states.
Electricity Price Changes, 2008 – 2013
“During last month’s cold snaps, we saw very high wind energy output play a critical role in protecting consumers across the country from skyrocketing energy prices. This study confirms that wind energy is providing that benefit every day,” said Michael Goggin, Senior Electric Industry Analyst at the American Wind Energy Association.
The ways wind energy protects consumers by displacing the use of more expensive and polluting sources of energy.
How wind energy costs have fallen by 43 percent over the last four years, as documented by DOE data.
A section that links to 15 studies by independent grid operators, state governments, academic experts, and others confirming that wind energy reduces energy costs for consumers.
Dozens of U.S. utilities that are locking in record low wind prices that will protect their consumers from fuel price fluctuations for decades.
As Mr. Goggin explains, “With the drastic cost declines over the last few years, wind energy offers consumers a great deal today. That deal will only get better with time because that low price is locked in for the life of the wind project, as the fuel will always be free. No other major source of energy can offer that kind of price stability. Diversifying our energy mix with zero fuel cost, zero emission wind energy is a win-win for consumers and the environment.”
AWEA The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America. Keep up with all the latest wind industry news at: http://www.aweablog.org/blog/
If you’re not familiar with what has gone down in the US wind industry in the past year, here’s a quick synopsis (skip the next two paragraphs if you know the background well):
Despite fossil fuel and nuclear power competitors getting tax credits for many decades, the wind industry tends to have its guaranteed for just 1–3 years at a time. Last year, they were set to expire at the end of the year. The solution could have been simple — extend the tax credits for another year, saving tens of thousands of US jobs, helping the US manufacturing industry, and continuing to advance US leadership in one of the cleanest sources of energy on the plant.
Instead, certain leaders of a certain political party decided to sacrifice a strong and growing portion of the US economy by turning extension of the wind industry tax credits into a political game. In fact, leaders of that party actually let the tax credits expire this time. They finally extended the wind power tax credits for just one year a couple of days after they expired. Nonetheless, this did a few things: firstly, it resulted in tens of thousands of Americans losing their jobs; secondly, it resulted in a ton of wind power projects getting rushed through at the end of 2012. That resulted in a record year for wind power, in which wind power was the largest source of new power capacity in the US. But it also meant that projects scheduled to finish in early 2013 actually finished earlier, resulting in a very slow start to 2013.
US Wind Industry in Q3 2013 & 2013 As A Whole
The American Wind Industry Association (AWEA), which recently released the US Wind Industry Third Quarter 2013 Market Report, says that the market has now rebounded. Nonetheless, the lack of a long-term signal of support for wind power leaves the industry in a less-than-ideal state of being. “Lack of certainty over federal tax policies continues to keep wind energy from reaching its full potential in the United States.”
But wind power technology has continued to advanced, driving down wind power costs in the US and elsewhere. And the bottom line is that wind power is the cheapest option for new electricity generation in many if not most regions.
Utilities “have signed over 5,670 megawatts (MW) of new power purchase agreements (PPAs) and received approval to build over 1,870 MW of utility-owned wind power” this year. “These 7,500 MW of new wind projects are helping spur wind manufacturing companies to increase hiring, and driving construction starts.” 1,100 MW (or 1.1 GW) of new wind power projects broke ground in the third quarter, according to the new report, bringing the 2013 wind power construction total to over 2,300 MW.
Here’s more from AWEA on what the dropping costs combined with fair policies have resulted in:
The renewed push toward wind included multiple utilities procuring significantly more wind energy than their initial request for proposals called for, including American Electric Power’s Public Service Company of Oklahoma, which said it decided to triple that amount because of ‘extraordinary pricing opportunities that will lower costs for PSO customers by an estimated $53 million in the first year of the contracts.’
‘Utilities are investing in more wind power because it’s the smart thing for their ratepayers and their bottom lines,’ said AWEA Senior Policy Analyst Emily Williams. ‘Xcel Energy, Detroit Edison, Austin Energy, Omaha Public Power District, and American Electric Power’s Public Service Company of Oklahoma have all pursued contracts in excess of their initial requests for more wind this year, because wind is saving their consumers money.’
Xcel Energy recently told its ratepayers that “wind energy can save you money.” It also noted that “wind prices today are lower than other energy resources, like natural gas. And wind power purchased at firm prices will protect you from the uncertainty of rising fuel costs in the future.”
It was also happy to throw in a the green card: “with our new wind supply, we’re on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.”
Beyond 2013, Where Will We Go?
Notably, one big thing was changed with this year’s wind power production tax credit (PTC) extension. Projects don’t have to be finished by the end of the year to qualify, only extended. So, you can expect that a large number of projects will be started this quarter, even if they are not completed this year.
From AWEA: “Utilities are eager to take advantage of the PTC/ITC extension with at least 27 requests for proposals issued for wind, renewables or other capacity to date. These will lead to over 4,175 MW of new wind. Looking further ahead, 5,600 MW of new wind projects have secured long-term contracts, and another 1,900 MW have received state regulatory approval.”
Wind power is going to see a very bright future in the US and globally. Wind power costs continue to come down, while costs for wind’s top US competitor, natural gas, are headed up.
Will wind power ever get the long-term tax credits that coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power get? Will it even matter?
I think a long-term extension of the wind power PTC would help, and would only be fair. But I don’t have much hope that the current Congress will put that through. And I think if the wind industry is left assuming that the tax credits are over, the industry will actually grow at a steadier, smoother rate. We’ll see.
Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.