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Telephones, computers, electric vehicles, and other market failures

February 15th, 2013


By W. L. Leow

In some circles in Washington, DC, the future of electric vehicles (EV) has become as hot a topic as sequestration or immigration reform. Some skeptical journalists and policymakers are rushing to declare the entire electric vehicle sector a mistake or failure at the first sign of difficulties. Their rhetoric is cogent, writing lucid, and numbers seem compelling. At first glance, the fact that Americans bought just 71,000 plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles in the past two years might make the EV look like a failure. The emergence of EVs, however, needs to be viewed from the framework of technology adoption and diffusion, rather than raw numbers or road trips, to tell the true story.

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By the numbers: Why the PTC should be extended

August 7th, 2012


By: Jeremy Twitchell

The prospect of renewing the wind production tax credit is already stirring debate. Given the strong, bipartisan support for the credit’s extension, this debate is more of a reflection of how polarized our energy debate has become than the merits of the credit.

But beneath all of the back-and-forth, there are three simple numbers that create the narrative of a tax credit that has been singularly successful in its purpose, but must remain in place in order for wind power to reach equal footing.

123%. That’s how much wind’s share of the U.S. energy mix grew from 2008 to 2011. Wind now provides about 3% of our energy, and is second only to natural gas in terms of how fast it has grown in the last four years. The current production tax credit, which has been uninterrupted since 2005, has allowed wind to thrive in the U.S. Installations have grown in seven out of the eight years since, and costs have dropped to the point that analysts are forecasting all-time lows as soon as next year. Read the rest of this entry »

A tale of two nations

July 17th, 2012


By: Jeremy Twitchell

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, there’s really no better way of contrasting how wind energy has fared this month in Dickens’ homeland, the United Kingdom, with how it has fared in the U.S.

Last week, the British government authorized two new wind farms that together will provide more than 1 gigwatt (GW) of power, part of a decade-long initiative to increase the country’s overall offshore wind capacity to 18 GW by 2020. It is also another step toward the nation’s goal of drawing 15% of its energy load from renewable sources by the same year.

And when the British government recently proposed to reduce the tax credit that it provides to wind farms by 10% because of declining technology costs, the industry agreed. Even when more conservative politicians called for cuts of 25%, the two sides recognized the importance of maintaining predictability for the industry and quickly moved to work out their differences. An agreement is expected later this week. Read the rest of this entry »