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Due to the lack of strong Federal policy, many utilities, states, and companies are taking individual action. For example, California is initiating a state-wide effort called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) to bring together utilities, renewable energy producers and transmission operators to identify how best to upgrade and expand the grid. Another example of energy innovation at the local level is the effort led by Governor Hoeven of North Dakota. Hoeven, together with governors in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, is working to create a regional transmission planning effort that will promote investment and cost-sharing in the transmission grid.
Although these and other state initiatives are important and essential to the growth of renewable energy, it is imperative that we do more. Both the 111th Congress and the Obama administration must make a coherent transmission policy an urgent national priority. This is critical for the US economy, security and future.
President Obama says he is committed to mandating that the United States generate 10% of its electricity from renewable energy resources by 2012 and 25% by 2025. If this is a serious commitment, a national transmission plan must be at its core. An investment in transmission will yield multiple strong returns in renewable energy, job growth, economic development, and additional tax revenues.
All of us in the industry recognize the extraordinary financial challenges facing our sector. Liquidity crises, unexpected tightening of capital and reductions in the price of oil are all very real issues. Many projects may be at risk. But this slowdown should not be an excuse for abandoning our efforts to build up our transmission infrastructure to transport clean, domestically generated energy. The process will take time - many years, in fact - which is why we must start today to change the national mindset about the urgency and necessity of harnessing the vast untapped reserves of renewable energy in the United States. There are some signs of progress. Projects like Acciona's Tatanka Wind Farm, for example, may yet benefit from Governor Hoeven's initiative. A 180 MW installation, it spans more than 14,000 rural acres (5700 ha) on the border of North and South Dakota, two of the top five states in the country for the production of wind energy. In fact this part of the United States has been called the 'Saudi Arabia of wind' because of the area's enormous wind energy resources. With 120 turbines, Tatanka is the largest wind farm in the Dakotas and the development has created local jobs, provided additional revenues to local landowners and expanded the tax base for the community. That's all good news, but we could be doing so much more.
Each day that the wind passes through the Dakotas without putting it to work is another day of economic and energy loss. Transmission is the conduit to economic growth and a clean, renewable energy future for the United States. Without a concerted national effort, one with a commitment like Eisenhower's investment in a national Interstate Highway System, we will not realize this future.
Peter Duprey is Chief Executive Officer of Acciona Energy North America.
e-mail: [email protected]
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Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.