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Wind energy advocates see ally in President-elect Obama

by Fui Tsikata
Dec 04, 2008

With President-elect Barack Obama promising huge investments in alternative energy, Midwestern states in particular stand to gain from investing in wind energy projects.

The American Wind Energy Association has recommended that the new administration increase funding for new energy transmission lines to $11 billion from $8 billion.

In addition, the AWEA is calling for an increase in funding for wind research and development from $57 million to $217 million over the next three to five years.

Chris Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, sees such energy projects as “a real opportunity to invest in physics, meteorology, project development and project management education in Midwestern states.”

“Illinois and Indiana would be primary beneficiaries of an investment in transmission because it would allow them to sell more of their wind energy to higher-priced electricity markets in the east,” said AWEA spokesperson Christine Real De Azua in an email. “Currently, transmission constraints limit the amount of low-cost wind energy that can be sent to demand centers on the East Coast.”

More money for wind energy will also go a long way to creating good jobs in rural parts of the country, while improving infrastructure, said Merrett. For example, he said, a wind technician needs highly specialized training and “they are going to be earning at least $40,000, and these are going to be in the Midwest.”

Obama has consistently spoken of creating millions of jobs in a green economy. In a recent 60 minutes interview on CBS, Obama reinforced his commitment to renewable energy. He said, “It may be harder politically but it is [now] more important.” He added that America must break its dependence on foreign oil.

“The one thing that is important is that the incoming administration has made it a pretty big platform,” said Morningstar Inc. analyst Daniel Holland. “I think President-elect Obama committed $15 billion, and that in itself will keep it in everybody’s mind.”

In addition, Holland also pointed to Dow Jones & Co.’s Sustainability U.S. Index, which ranks companies’ environmental, economic and social efforts, as an indication that the business community is also taking green socially-conscious investors and companies seriously.

By 2030, the association envisions that the United States will be generating 20 percent of its electricity from wind energy.

The AWEA also wants to encourage the use of small wind systems by homes, farms and small businesses by expanding the renewable energy production tax credit.

The association contends the American consumer will save about $100 billion in electricity costs in the long run, if the Obama administration makes the proposed investments..