Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa sent a letter Sept. 15 on behalf of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition calling on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to reverse its decision to reduce long-term investment in research advancing American wind power.
The governors’ letter was sent to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and refers to funding in the 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill set for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget and used for research and technology innovation that has helped lower wind power’s costs by 66% in the last six years.
“The nation’s long-term investment in research conducted by DOE’s energy programs, National Laboratories, our state universities, and private companies around the nation has helped fuel the extraordinary growth of the nation’s wind energy industry,” the letter states. “As governors, we see the benefits this innovative research has brought to our states, including energy diversification and continual wealth generation in rural America.”
DOE’s research has played a key role in reducing the cost of land-based wind energy by over 50% since the mid-1990s, the governors say in the letter. The U.S. Senate bill reduces investment in wind energy research and development by $61m, compared to the FY2015 level, even while it increases research funding for other renewable energy sources.
The bill also eliminates funding for grid modernization and other investments to integrate wind energy into the nation’s electric transmission system, the two governors said.
Cutting funding for wind energy research could leave untapped opportunities for new wind power development and the economic benefits that come with it in all 50 states according to the letter, especially the Southeast, and the bill’s elimination of funding for grid modernization restrains the United States from capitalizing on the full range of economic and environmental benefits gained by diversifying the domestic electricity mix with homegrown wind energy.
“These states’ Chief Executive Officers are telling Congress that their decision to hinder wind power’s growth hurts their state economies,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan. “We support the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition in urging Congress to restore funding for research that has helped improve wind power’s technology and bring more of wind’s low-cost benefits to American families and businesses.”
“We’re gaining momentum, now is not the time for Congress to turn its back on American supported wind energy,” added Kiernan.