Friday, March 22, 2013

Anti-wind rhetoric, par for the course

For many years, an unfounded assertion about wind power has thwarted the best of debunking efforts. That is the claim that wind turbine sound--in particular "infrasound," which normally cannot be heard, but which can come from turbines as well as many other sources in the natural and human environment--has some mysterious characteristic causing a wide variety of illnesses.

Government studies in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.--many of which you will find in the list of references below--have all found no evidence of any mechanism by which wind turbine sound could actually have a direct physical effect on the human body. Instead, as an independent panel of expert acousticians commissioned by AWEA and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) reported in late 2009, the evidence suggests that a person's own psychological concerns (annoyance, fear, anger, etc.) are responsible for the symptoms reported by some wind project neighbors.

Now, two new studies--one from New Zealand appearing in a peer-reviewed journal, one from Australia released for comment prior to publication--have strongly bolstered this suggested explanation. In so doing, they point toward the conclusion that the power of suggestion, in the form of the spreading of unscientific, poorly documented "studies," rumors about them, and anecdotal information, is far more likely to be responsible for the ailments complained of than wind turbine sound.

Taken together, the studies provide strong evidence that the maladies ascribed to wind turbine sound result from what is called the "nocebo" (like placebo) effect, in which individuals who are led to expect symptoms from some stimulus experience those symptoms whether the stimulus is actually present or not. 

The first study, published in Health Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, by Crichton et al., examined the question of whether symptoms could result from information given to subjects about wind turbine infrasound. The study's abstract summarizes the procedure and findings:

"Method: A sham-controlled double-blind provocation study, in which participants were exposed to 10 min of infrasound and 10 min of sham infrasound, was conducted. Fifty-four participants were randomized to high- or low-expectancy groups and presented audiovisual information, integrating material from the Internet, designed to invoke either high or low expectations that exposure to infrasound causes specified symptoms. Results: High-expectancy participants reported significant increases, from preexposure assessment, in the number and intensity of symptoms experienced during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. There were no symptomatic changes in the low-expectancy group. Conclusions: Healthy volunteers, when given information about the expected physiological effect of infrasound, reported symptoms that aligned with that information, during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. Symptom expectations were created by viewing information readily available on the Internet, indicating the potential for symptom expectations to be created outside of the laboratory, in real world settings."

The second study, by Simon Chapman, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, examines the timing and number of health complaints registered by neighbors, about turbine sound, over a 20-year period (1993-2012) at all of the 49 wind farms in Australia. Among Mr. Chapman's findings:

- The number of those complaining amounted to just 1 in 272 residents within a 5-kilometer radius of the wind farms.

- Complaints were highly concentrated (81 of a grand total of 120 complaints filed) around five wind projects which have been heavily criticized by anti-wind groups.

- No complaints at all have been made about 31 of the 49 wind farms. According to Dr. Chapman's report, "The 31 farms with no histories of complaints, and which today have some 21,530 residents within 5km of their turbines, have operated for a cumulative total of 256 years."

- Complaints escalated sharply after 2009, when anti-wind groups began stressing health concerns in their publicity about proposed projects.

Slate columnist Keith Kloor, in a recent article on the two studies and others, provides a number of useful links and examples of other cases in which the nocebo effect appears prevalent, such as the long-running scare about electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation. Concludes Mr. Kloor, "In the United States, paranoia over EMF seems to have died down in recent years, though there are plenty of dead-enders who still flog the issue. Those who might have been inclined to fret about the danger of power lines may now instead be focusing their fears on cellphones. (This subset of chronic worriers should know that everything gives you cancer.)"

The studies also help to explain:

- Why one self-published author, who coined the term "wind turbine syndrome" to describe the various physical complaints some neighbors of wind farms reported, has been unable to narrow the symptoms down to a specific list, as is commonly done with other medical conditions so that they may be diagnosed.

- Why the list of ailments, both human and animal, ascribed to turbine sound is so vast.  Mr. Chapman maintains an ongoing list, with the number now topping 200.  It's a remarkable range of allegations, given that hundreds of thousands of people around the world work and live within or near wind farms without reporting ill effects.

The studies also provide a clear rationale for urging that anti-wind groups tone down the apocalyptic rhetoric they often employ and that media use more caution in their reporting on wind farm controversies.  They may be unwittingly causing and spreading not only distrust, but physical illness.  As the New Zealand study's lead author Fiona Crichton says in an article, "How the power of suggestion generates wind farm symptoms," about her work, "Arecent study has shown that media reporting about health effects and wind farms in Ontario, Canada, contain factors likely to induce fear, anxiety and concern. Thus the media must take particular care that they are not creating and perpetuating health complaints attributed to wind farms."

Further coverage of the studies:
Sydney Morning Herald, Wind turbine sickness 'all in the mind': study
Metro Toronto, Wind farms don't make you sick, anti-wind-farm activists do, researcher says
DeSmogBlog, Research Finds Wind Farm Health Concerns Probably Caused by Anti-Wind Scare Campaigns
EarthTechling (blog), Wind Farm Illnesses Linked to Anti-Wind Farm Lobbying
Environmental Defence (Canada) (blog), Why fear-mongering about windmills is bad for our health

Re-post from AWEA's blog by Tom Gray

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reports on the Impact of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program Available

The Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability has released four reports on the impact of the Recovery Act-funded Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) Program.  Under the SGIG Program, investor-owned and municipal utilities, transmission operators, and electric co-ops across the U.S. are deploying a range of smart technologies and systems designed to increase the electric grid’s flexibility, reliability, efficiency, affordability, and resilience. 
The new reports cover four key smart grid application areas: 
  • Reliability improvements from the application of distribution automation technologies and systems; 
  • Demand reductions from the application of advanced metering infrastructure, time-based rates, and customer systems;
  • Operations and maintenance savings from the application of advanced metering infrastructure; and
  • Application of automated controls for voltage and reactive power management.
The reports describe the technologies and systems being deployed, provide updates on deployment status, and analyze initial results from the subset of projects that have reported impacts to date. The reports also explain how the systems are being applied to derive impacts and benefits, and describe plans for future analysis.  They are available now for downloading
A fifth report that addresses the application of synchrophasor technologies for electric transmission systems is planned for later this year. As more results become available, the Department plans to conduct further analysis and publish additional reports that summarize the results of the SGIG projects. 
Additional information about the SGIG Program is available in the Smart Grid Investment Grant Progress Report and the SGIG case studies and on the OE website and
Other interesting links

Libor Lies Revealed in Rigging of $300 Trillion Benchmark Bloomberg

Video: Chrystia Freeland Interviews Larry Summers. Economist’s View. Listening to “Larry” reminds me of David Sedaris’s riff on “Easy French.”

Papa John’s PR firm targets bloggers Politico. No anchovies? You’ve got the wrong man.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Despite flaws, DOE collaborative report shows more wind and transmission saves ratepayers money

High Tension WiresJan 24, 2013. A planning collaborative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy has released a final report on its analysis of several electricity generation and transmission options in the Eastern U.S.  In spite of some serious shortcomings, the report clearly indicates that building more wind generation and transmission is the most cost-effective way to meet the region's energy needs.

Following up on the Phase I report released at the end of 2011, the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative (EIPC), which included utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders, has released the final report for Phase II, the final phase of the analysis. Phase II developed more detailed transmission plans to accommodate generation build-outs for the following three of eight scenarios developed in Phase I:

1) National carbon policy with significant Midwest wind build-out,
2) Regional Renewable Portfolio Standard case, in which renewable requirements were met with more local (i.e., Eastern) resources, and
3) a business as usual case.

Because Phase II builds on the results of Phase I, previous complaints about flaws in the modeling inputs and methodology in Phase I apply to these results as well. These concerns included:
- Use of wind capital costs that were 50% too high,
- Failure to work from a "copper-sheet analysis" to determine the optimal level of transmission investment,
- Failure to conduct iterative transmission and generation development to reach a more optimized solution,
- Artificial limits on wind penetrations, and more.
These concerns were vindicated when the transmission build-outs proved to be too small to accommodate a significant share of the wind generation build-out in the wind-heavy case in Phase II, resulting in wind curtailment levels of 15%. Modeling shortcomings in Phase II also affected the results, such as an inability to model the natural gas pipeline system resulting in the assumption that new gas generation would be sited at the site of retiring coal generation and likely greatly understating the actual transmission need in the gas-heavy “business as usual” case.
Even with these flawed assumptions working against wind and transmission deployment, the Phase II results provide a clear indication that wind and transmission development is the most cost-effective solution to the energy needs of the Eastern U.S.

Specifically, the national carbon policy and wind build-out case resulted in annual power system operating costs of $108 billion, significantly lower than the $151 billion annual cost in the regional RPS case and $161 billion in the business as usual case (excluding carbon costs).

These annual savings of $43 billion and $53 billion, respectively, would offset the higher upfront capital costs of the national wind case, which had capital costs of $206 billion more than the regional RPS case and $694 billion more than the business as usual case. The large annual operating cost savings produced by these very long-lived transmission and generation capital investments would repay the initial investments well before the ends of their useful lives.

If slightly larger transmission investments had been included that reduced the amount of wind curtailment from the unrealistically high 15% shown in these results, the benefit-cost proposition for wind and transmission would have appeared even more favorable, with a simple linear extrapolation indicating that an additional $17 billion worth of transmission up-front would have reduced wind curtailment to near zero and yielded additional annual operating cost reductions of $7.35 billion. Moreover, even with the high level of wind curtailment, the national carbon and wind build-out case reduced SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions by around 90% relative to the other cases, NOx (nitrogen oxides) by more than 98% relative to the other cases, and CO2 (carbon dioxide) by 75% and 80% relative to the RPS and business as usual cases, respectively. Assigning even a very low societal cost for this pollution would make the national wind build-out case an even clearer winner.

Phase II produced other important results as well. Many transmission lines, such as those needed for connecting wind energy along the East Coast and those needed for connecting wind development in the Midwest and transporting that energy eastward, appeared in multiple cases, indicating that those transmission lines should likely be included in any “no regrets” transmission plan.

This article is re-posted with permission from AWEA Blog: Into the Wind, full story here

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to extend and expand the NY-Sun initiative

Beginning this year, you could get a tax break when installing solar energy equipment in a commercial building, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said last week.

Beginning January 1, 2013, thanks to legislation and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's support, the State's 4% sales tax won't be charged on the sale or installation of commercial solar energy systems equipment.  The exemption also applies to the 3/8% sales tax imposed in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District.

The new law also allows cities and counties, including New York City, to provide a similar exemption from their local sales taxes. 

"This measure builds on the existing solar exemption for homeowners to encourage businesses statewide to use clean, renewable resources," said Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox. 

A little history on the NY Sun Iniative:

The NY-Sun Initiative brings together and expands existing programs administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and the New York Power Authority (NYPA), to ensure a coordinated and well-funded solar energy expansion plan.

“The NY-Sun Initiative puts New York at the forefront of solar development and research, creating green jobs while containing energy costs for consumers," Governor Cuomo said. “This clean energy investment will help protect the environment, expand our solar capacity, and lead to a longterm reduction of the cost of solar in New York."

Last April the Public Service Commission approved NYSERDA’s request to double funding for customer-sited solar electric systems, known as a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, to $432 million over the next four years. The expanded solar program will increase financial incentives for large, commercial-sized PV projects and expand incentive programs for small-to-medium residential and commercial systems.

NYSERDA will also provide additional funding for its competitively bid solar program for larger-scale and aggregated systems that currently focuses on businesses, colleges and universities, and other large buildings located in New York City, Westchester and the lower Hudson Valley. The program, which is now offering $30 million and accepting applications, provides another important strategy to deal with the demand for electricity in the Downstate metropolitan area and will be expanded to other areas of the state.

As part of NY-Sun, NYSERDA and NYPA are collaborating in a NY-Sun balance-of-system (BOS) initiative, working with private and public partners across New York State, and building on the BOS advancements made by the City University of New York (CUNY) and the efforts underway in the PV Manufacturing Consortium.

The NY-Sun BOS initiative focuses on statewide standardization and streamlining of the procedures for permitting and interconnection, and development and training. A broad range of demonstration projects will be conducted that represent residential, commercial and industrial applications. NYSERDA and NYPA  plan to partner with other public and private entities in this effort, including utilities, equipment vendors, solar installers, and localities across New York State.

In support of NY-Sun BOS, NYPA’s new efforts include expanding its current solar research and demonstration programs through its recently announced Solar Market Acceleration Program (Solar MAP), which will make competitive funding available for innovative solar technology research, training and demonstration projects and cost reduction strategies.

To make solar affordable for residents and businesses, NYSERDA and NYPA are providing at least $40 million dollars to promote research into reducing the overall equipment and installation costs so that in the future solar energy is competitive with other forms of electricity and will require no government subsidies.

In addition, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) is implementing a first-of-its-kind program in New York State to purchase up to 50 megawatts of solar power that is generated on its customers’ premises. Under this plan, the owner of the PV system is paid a fixed rate by LIPA for every solar kilowatt hour generated over a 20-year term.

U.S. Representative Paul Tonko said, “Investments in solar and clean energy technologies have clear dividends. They create jobs and grow our state’s economy. Today’s announcement shows that the future for solar is as bright as ever in New York State and the Capital Region. I commend Governor Cuomo for advancing policies that promote clean energy innovation, create jobs, protect the environment while cutting our dependence on foreign oil.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Governor McDonnell Proposes Major Transportation Funding Overhaul to Inject $3.1 Billion into Virginia's Highways, Rail and Transit Systems in Next 5 Years

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnellRICHMOND - With legislators and transportation leaders by his side, Governor Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday a plan that would provide more than $3.1 billion in transportation funding for the Commonwealth over the next 5 years, tying transportation funding to economic growth and replacing the state's outdated gas tax revenue model with a 0.8 percent increase in the state's sales tax dedicated to transportation. The proposal would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate the state tax on gasoline, allocates additional general funds to transportation, capitalizes on revenues being lost on out-of-state sales, and creates a long-term revenue system to fund Virginia's highway, rail and transit needs. Virginia's current transportation maintenance funding shortfall means that in FY 2013 $364 million must be transferred from the state's construction account to pay for road maintenance. That transfer amount is anticipated to grow to $500 million by FY 2019 unless new funding is provided. In short, Virginia has to use money meant for construction for paving and potholes. The governor's plan fixes the problem by generating $844 million in new funding per year for transportation by FY 2018, eliminating the state maintenance crossover and contributing to construction, rail, transit and other priorities. By eliminating crossover and with proposed revenue growth, this plan provides an additional $1.8 billion for highway construction over the next 5 years.
"Transportation is a core function of government. Children can't get to school; parents waste too much time in traffic; and businesses can't move their goods without an adequate and efficient transportation system," Governor McDonnell said. "My 2013 transportation funding and reform package is intended to address the short and long-term transportation funding needs of the Commonwealth. Declining funds for infrastructure maintenance, stagnant motor fuels tax revenues, increased demand for transit and passenger rail, and the growing cost of major infrastructure projects necessitate enhancing and restructuring the Commonwealth's transportation program and the way it is funded. We simply cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect this problem to go away. The gas tax is a stagnant revenue source, and no changes to it will provide a reliable growth mechanism for transportation in the state. In short, if we stick to the same old means of funding transportation, we will find ourselves having the same debates and facing the same revenue shortfalls over and over again as inflation slowly eats away at the gas tax, cars get better mileage to meet CAFÉ standards and more alternative fuel vehicles hit the streets. Market forces clearly dictate that we have to change how we fund transportation. This is a math problem. The current revenues numbers do not add up to a safe, efficient and sustainable transportation network. The time is now for an innovative and sustainable plan to meet our transportation needs and grow Virginia's economy."

The governor's 2013 Transportation Plan proposes to make these fundamental changes:
  • Eliminate the current 17.5 cents per gallon motor fuels tax on gasoline: The viability of the gas tax as the state's primary revenue source for transportation has been eroded by greater vehicle fuel mileage, the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles and the impact of inflation. Once this provision is enacted, Virginia will become the only state in nation without a tax on gasoline and motorists will likely see a significant break in the price of gasoline at the pumps. The motor fuels tax on diesel will remain unchanged because heavy trucks have a disproportionately large impact on the deterioration of Virginia's highways.
  • Replace the current gas tax with a 0.8 cent increase to the Sales and Use Tax (SUT) dedicated to transportation: The SUT is a reliable, predicable and sustainable revenue source. For decades we have already had the policy that .5 cents of the sales tax goes to transportation. As the economy grows, the revenue from the SUT grows with it. As a percentage of the price of a product or service procured, the SUT inherently accounts for inflation. Virginia's SUT will remain below its neighboring states. Under the governor's plan, 85 percent of the increased SUT will go to the Highway Maintenance and Operations Fund and 15 percent will go to the Transportation Trust Fund.
  • Dedicate an additional .25 cent of the state's portion of the existing SUT to transportation: Transportation currently receives 0.5 cent of the SUT, and the governor proposes to phase in this share to 0.75 cent over five years. When combined with the 0.8 cent SUT increase, transportation will receive approximately one-quarter of SUT proceeds, thus ensuring a sustainable transportation revenue stream for the future. All of the revenues from the additional .25 cent will be dedicated to support maintenance and operations. During the first three years, however, up to $300 million will be committed to the Dulles Metrorail Extension Project, providing the reforms identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General are implemented.
  • Increase vehicle registration fees by $15 and dedicate the revenue to intercity passenger rail and transit: There is a strong and growing demand for public transportation in Virginia, both within and between the state's regions. The successful passenger rail services to/from Washington, DC and Lynchburg, Richmond, and Norfolk, and the dramatic growth in transit in Virginia (especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads) requires greater financial support from the Commonwealth. This need is anticipated to grow as passenger rail services are extended to Roanoke, light rail is extended to Virginia Beach, and Metrorail is opened to Dulles Airport and beyond. Revenues generated by the fee will be split between passenger rail and transit.
  • Impose a $100 annual Alternative Fuel Vehicle Fee and dedicate the revenues to transit: The governor is a strong supporter of alternative fuel vehicles. He has directed that Virginia's state fleet be converted to natural gas vehicles. And he knows that alternative fuel vehicles will only continue to grow in popularity and use in the years ahead. In fact, over the past four years, as gas prices have grown from less than $2 per gallon to as high as $4, more Virginians have turned to alternative fuel vehicles. There are over 91,000 of these vehicles currently registered in Virginia. This is a great development for energy security and conservation, but it does present a challenge to how transportation funding has been derived in America for the past century. Drivers of alternative fuel vehicles that use natural gas or electricity pay no motor fuels tax at the state or federal level and thus do not contribute to the primary means of funding roads. However, these vehicles still have the same impact on Virginia's roadways as conventional fuel vehicles.

While the governor's plan will eliminate the Virginia gasoline tax, the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents will remain and with more alternative fuel vehicles on the road, the less of a share Virginia will get of those federal gas tax revenues. Therefore, the governor's plan proposes an additional $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles to ensure that these drivers continue to contribute something to Virginia's transportation networks, which they use every day. The revenues generated by this fee will be dedicated to the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund to help fund the growing demand for transit and reduce congestion. Legislation passed during the 2012 session already required a fee for electric vehicles, and this measure applies the increased fee to all alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Adopt the Marketplace Equity Act now and dedicate projected revenues to transportation and education: The 113th Congress will consider the Marketplace Equity Act, which would grant states the legal authority to collect out-of-state sales taxes. This is a tax that is already imposed and required by law to be paid as a use tax on the taxpayer's income tax return. Unfortunately, compliance is very low and these are dollars we should be collecting. This proposal would conform the Code of Virginia to any changes in federal law, contingent upon the Marketplace Equity Act being adopted by Congress. Potential revenues will be dedicated to transportation, public education and localities. Governor McDonnell's 2013 Transportation Funding Plan will allocate a portion of these revenues not only to transportation, but also to other critical areas of need. First, 1.125 cents of the 5.8 percent sales tax will be dedicated to public education ($310 million over 5 years). Second, 0.5 cents of the 5.8 percent sales tax will be given back to the localities to use at their discretion ($138 million over 5 years). Third, 0.5 cents of the 5.8 percent sales tax will be given back to the localities for local transportation priorities ($138 million over 5 years). Finally, 3.675 cents of the 5.8 percent sales tax will be provided to the Transportation Trust Fund ($1.02 billion over 5 years).

In conversations with Congressional leaders, it is likely that this bill passes in congress. The bill has support from the National Governor's Association and both online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

"Over the course of the next five years, this innovative plan proposed by Governor McDonnell will generate more than $3.1 billion in additional funding to be invested in the Commonwealth's transportation network," said Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. "This will be the single largest increase in dedicated funding for transportation in a generation, and will provide a true long-term sustainable and equitable solution to fund today's transportation needs and to meet the future demands for a safe, efficient and economically viable transportation network. It will also end the unsustainable transfer of our funding for new transportation construction projects just to pay for maintenance. This crossover has taken more than $3.3 billion from construction projects to address maintenance deficits since 2002."

"This is a bold plan that makes a critical investment in Virginia's transportation system," said Speaker of the House William Howell. "It marks another major step forward in our efforts to continue to make Virginia attractive to businesses. This much-needed investment shows a commitment to upgrading and improving our state's infrastructure that will help attract businesses to Virginia and create jobs. I am enthusiastic about the solution we have put forward today and what it will mean for commuters, businesses and the Commonwealth. We have crafted a plan upon which we can build consensus, but there is more work to be done to bring everyone together on a practical solution to this problem. I look forward to working with Governor McDonnell and Senate leadership on this issue throughout the General Assembly session."

"There is no question that funding for Virginia's transportation needs is sorely lacking," said Delegate Tim Hugo. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor McDonnell in passing this legislation that will 'stop the bleeding' of the Transportation Trust Fund and allocate almost half a billion dollars more to fix Virginia's transportation problems."

"Transportation funding is a critical need across the Commonwealth that must be addressed this year," said Senator Steve Newman. "I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass this balanced approach to solving this pressing need without burdening the working men and women of Virginia. I am also pleased that this plan eliminates a complete class of taxation by removing the state gas tax."

"We have known for years that the transportation budget hasn't been the priority Virginia needs it to be," said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. "Governor McDonnell has been creative and aggressive in his efforts to address transportation issues, resulting in a significant amount of work in progress across the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, it's past time that we reprioritize the money we spend in government as well as offer alternative approaches if we're ever going to solve this issue. I appreciate the governor taking the lead and putting some fresh and innovative ideas on the table. During the process of looking at each alternative and debating its merits, it's my job as attorney general to advise the governor and lawmakers of the legal intricacies of each proposal presented in this session, and I intend to be actively involved in doing just that. I hope that when the process is complete, Virginia will have meaningfully boosted its ability to improve our transportation system, thereby making our Commonwealth an even better place to do business and raise a family."

"I applaud Governor McDonnell for putting forth a detailed plan to address Virginia's transportation infrastructure needs," said Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. "The governor and I fully understand that transportation is a critical issue facing every region of our state and now is the time for action. I look forward to working with the governor and members of the General Assembly to pass a comprehensive and substantive plan this year that will enable us to build a transportation system for the 21st Century."

"Two years ago when the General Assembly adopted the governor's transportation bonding package, everyone acknowledged that a sustainable funding initiative was necessary to meet the Commonwealth's ongoing transportation needs," said Jeffrey Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance. "This bill goes a long way toward meeting those needs. If all the provisions of this bill are adopted by the General Assembly, we will see almost $3.1 billion in new funding for our critical transportation needs over the next five years. This initiative will generate nearly 20,000 jobs, create more than $2.5 billion in economic activity in the Commonwealth and generate over $150 million in new tax revenues for economic growth. More importantly, this bill will improve mobility, reduce congestion, promote further economic activity and improve safety on our highways-all factors that will improve the quality of life in Virginia for today and years to come."

"Virginia's transportation infrastructure is vitally important to the Commonwealth's economic competitiveness. The state's transportation system supports business, tourism and economic growth," said Virginia Chamber President and CEO, Barry DuVal. "The governor's transportation proposal is a bold plan to ensure long-term, dedicated and sustainable funding is available that begins to address the Commonwealth's critical infrastructure needs."

The governor also announced the following transportation reform and innovation proposals:
  • Constitutional Lock Box on Transportation Funds: The governor supports legislation to send to the voters a constitutional amendment that will ensure that funds committed to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund are used solely for transportation purposes. This will help restore public trust that transportation dollars will be spent on transportation.
  • Streamlining VDOT Business Operations: Legislation to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and increase efficiency by giving the commissioner and VDOT greater authority over administrative issues, operational issues that principally involve the practice of engineering, and expanding stakeholder outreach and involvement.
  • Transit Funding Reform: If we are going to invest more funding in Virginia's transit systems, we must ensure that our transit providers are operating as efficiently as possible. The current transit funding formula - in place since 1986 - is broken. The formula is based on one single factor: operating costs regardless of size, efficiency, or type of transit service provided. In other words, the more you spend, the more you get. Using two-year-old data, a transit providers' funding is determined based on the proportion its costs bear to the total state transit operating costs. This system does not reward efficiency, and creates winners and losers by rewarding higher cost systems with more funding, while punishing those systems that achieve cost savings. The governor's plan includes a new performance-based funding formula for transit. The formula will be based 50 percent on system size and 50 percent on performance factors.
  • Improving the Competitiveness of the Port of Virginia: Finally, the governor's transportation plan will continue efforts to grow Virginia's economy and create jobs by implementing further reforms at the Port of Virginia. These reforms will focus on eliminating bureaucratic hurdles to better enable the VPA to compete with private companies in a highly competitive global marketplace. They will also expand the VPA's ability to act as a catalyst for economic development across the Commonwealth.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

'Fiscal cliff' deal preserves America’s leading source of new electric generation

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 1 – Congress has included the long-sought extension of wind energy tax credits in final passage of a bill to avert the "fiscal cliff" that now moves to President Obama for his expected signature.
America's 75,000 workers in wind energy are celebrating tonight over the continuation of policies expected to save up to 37,000 jobs and create far more over time, and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country. The extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC)--and Investment Tax Credits for community and offshore projects--will allow continued growth of the energy source that installed the most new electrical generating capacity in America last year, with factories or wind farms in all 50 states.
The version included in tonight's deal would cover all wind projects that start construction in 2013. Companies that manufacture wind turbines and install them sought that definition to allow for the 18-24 months it takes to develop a new wind farm.
Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee included that version in a "tax extenders" package they assembled in August, which made it into the overall fiscal cliff deal that passed the Senate early this morning and the House tonight. The bill is expected to be swiftly signed into law by President Obama, who consistently supported the wind energy tax credits throughout the process.
Wind set a new record in 2012 by installing 44 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in America, according to the Energy Information Administration, leading the electric sector compared with 30 percent for natural gas, and lesser amounts for coal and other sources.
However, America's wind energy workers have been living under threat of the PTC's expiration for over a year and layoffs had already begun, as companies idled factories because of a lack of orders for 2013. Uncertain federal policies have caused a "boom-bust" cycle in U.S. wind energy development for over a decade.
Half the American jobs in wind energy--37,000 out of 75,000--and hundreds of U.S. factories in the supply chain would have been at stake had the PTC been allowed to expire, according to a study by Navigant Consulting.
In the closing days of this year's "lame duck" session of Congress, America's wind energy workers have been posting videos to tell their stories of working in the new industry. The 2,000 companies that belong to AWEA have sent delegations to Capitol Hill repeatedly, invited Members of Congress on tours of wind farms and factories, and delivered hundreds of thousands of letters from constituents.
"On behalf of all the people working in wind energy manufacturing facilities, their families, and all the communities that benefit, we thank President Obama and all the Members of the House and Senate who had the foresight to extend this successful policy, so wind projects can continue to be developed in 2013 and 2014," said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA for the past four years.
"Now we can continue to provide America with more clean, affordable, homegrown energy, and keep growing a new manufacturing sector that's now making nearly 70 percent of our wind turbines in the U.S.A.," said Rob Gramlich, who becomes AWEA's interim CEO on January 2 with Bode's return to private practice as a tax attorney, as previously announced.
For further information, quotes from industry leaders or comments on the outcome of the fiscal cliff negotiations, please call Ellen Carey at 202.249.7357 or Peter Kelley at 202.270.8831.
About wind energy
Wind energy has strengthened the economic fabric of communities across America, becoming one of the fastest growing U.S. manufacturing sectors. At least 472 U.S. factories currently supply the industry, up from as few as 30 in 2004, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service recently found.
U.S. Department of Energy has projected that wind energy can supply 20 percent of America's electricity by 2030.
That would support roughly 500,000 good quality jobs in the U.S., with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry. And, it would result in energy-related cost savings to the nation ranging from $100 billion to $250 billion through 2030--savings which have already begun.
AWEA is the national trade association of America's wind industry, with 2,000 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world's largest wind power trade show, the WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, which takes place next in Chicago May 5-8. AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America. Join AWEA on Facebook. Follow @AWEA on Twitter.
This is re-posted with permission from the AWEA blog - Into the Wind
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