Up | December 08, 2012
>>> along with the bush tax cuts , the aadjustments to the alternative to the tax end payments to doctors under medicare, there's another crucial piece of legislation set to expire. the renewable tax credit gives wind producers a tax credit that led to $20 billion in private investment and the creation of 75,000 jobs. in fact, we're in the midst of an incredible boone with wind energy . this increases 600% between 2006 and 2011 going from supplying 18% of american electric generate heing capacity to 32%. there's solar , which according to the international energy agency is the fastest growing because the solar panels are dropping at 7% a year. it pushes the price down 40% in the past year. a all of this is encouraging. because of the costs aren't included in gas and coal, the only way to be competitive is through subsidies like the renewable energy tax credit . continuity and the availability of the renewable tax credit ensured steady growth in wind power . conversely in 1999 , 2001 and 2003 wrecked havoc in the years that followed. the faite the clean energy lies in the hands of lawmakers which is a scary place to be. we have the executive director of the solar electric life fund, and vice president of the development and renewable energy systems america and a leading developer of wind projects and a next generation project fellow at the center for international security and law at the university of texas austin .
>> and dave roberts staff writer on energy politics. he's back at the table. let's start with the subsidy issues. with renewable and olind dra is is an iconic thing like these are welfare cases. we have real energy over here and we have this sort of charity case. we throw some money at them.
>> i have to dive into this one, because the only thing that's new about the subsidies for renewables is that, in fact, over the last couple of years as your graphic showed we have had them. they're only catching up to the decades and decades and decades we have had for fossil fuels and for nuclear. in those industries they have permanent tax incentives renewables this year and maybe another year not. it leads to a plummeting in the industry and a rise in the cost.
>> the explicit tax breaks that oil and gas and fossil fuels get is a tiny shriver of the subsidy. there's the unpriced carbon.
>> which is the biggest.
>> there's all this built infrastructure designed for fossil fuels . it's not just --
>> what do you mean by that?
>> pipelines and electricity transmission lines lead to coal plants where there's the most wind and solar . you don't have transmission lines built there. it's not a matter of plucking one piece of a system out and putting a new piece in. you talk about building a whole new system, and it's very hard to sort of compare unit costs when you're talking about that. you're talking about a more holistic view of things.
>> i think it's important to point out that with the wind industry we have the production tax credit , which is a credit. it's not a subsidy. it attracts an enormous level of private investment. in fact, what we do is bring in capital from all over the world, people who want to own wind and solar projects. he said all energy is incentivized and sub siddyized and renewable are barely catch upg. wind and solar pronlts, utility scale projects are infrastructure, as dave was saying. it taking two, three, five years sometimes to work on these projects and get them ready.
>> i want to talk to bob about why this price has come down. it's kind of aamazing and encouraging. what's going on in wind that we've gone through this kind of wind boom?
>> i think there are a couple of factors. the renewable portfolio standards in california and texas have made a huge difference.
>> explain those.
>> renewable portfolio standards require utilities to procure green power . so in texas we have blown past the rps. we're already there.
>> it dictates and demands from the state, passed by the state, 100% of the power, some percentage has to come from renewable sources ?
>> that's exactly right. that's a huge driver for private investment in the industry. it's also been very important as katie said to have the production tax credit , the investment tax credit for solar . especially in a plummeting gas price environment, we need these incentives in order to keep building the infrastructure.
>> solar , i think, is undergoing a sort of remarkable decline in the costs of production , but it doesn't have nearly the share that wind does, right? is that where solar is at right now?
>> let me put this in perspective. if you talk about the tax to convert satellite into electricity. the first commercial use was in 1994 . at the time it was literally astronomical in costs. not for the space race with the soviets where we needed satellites in space and needed power for the satellites. nasa turned to solar cells as a sourt of power for the satellites. at the time they cost literally hundreds of dollars per watt. nasa didn't care, right?
>> it's nasa .
>> over the last decades the cost of solar cells has come down and down and down. the efficiency, the conversion efficiency has continued to go up and up and up, right? now you've got solar cells that are produced for under a dollar a watt. just in the last few years they came down a factor of three thanks to the chinese that ramped up production and made 50% of it.
>> put some numbers around. this the price of solar panels have come down 46% since the first quarter of 2010 .
>> that's crazy.
>> it's incredible.
>> i'm glad that you cued up the international discussion. there's a lot of exciting stuff happening internationally. it's important for americans to hear this can be done. it doesn't have to be this sort of after thought welfare case. it can be integrated into how a nation gets its power.