Calif. Energy Projects Tied to Election Outcome

Thursday, 11 Oct 2012 02:25 PM

By Alec Weisman

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Renewable energy advocates in California are worried that a Mitt Romney presidency could cost the state and the industry millions of dollars in federal subsidies, according to the Los Angeles Times.
 
California, more than any other state, has aggressively employed subsidies under President Barack Obama to help build its renewable energy industry, which provides almost 170,000 jobs. But a number of new projects are on hold, awaiting the outcome of this year's presidential race.
 
Severin Borenstein, co-director of the Energy Institute at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business warned, “The election will have a huge effect on California energy policy. If the federal support dries up, a lot of this will come to a halt. It is critical to the cost-competitiveness of a lot of renewable energy here.”
 
Mark Tholke, a vice president at EDF Renewable Energy, also told the Times the impact of removing subsidies like those given the now infamous failed Solyndra solar panel company, could be "devastating" to his company.
 
"The number of wind projects we would build would just plummet," he said.
 
Romney has not offered any clues to what kinds of subsidies he might support, but his opposition to allowing the government to pick winners and losers in the alternative energy business was made clear earlier this year when he held a press conference in front of a bankrupt Solyndra plant. He declared at that time that a free market approach would work best for the industry, relying on private investments and a competitive market.
 
But Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, large-scale projects require "a safe-looking investment environment."
 
He said if it appears that federal support is ending, "it dramatically drives investor interest away."
 
According to the Times, alternative energy companies operating in California filed 41 percent of all patents for renewable-energy innovations nationwide from 2008 to 2010.

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