House Approves Green Investments to Stimulate the Economy

By a 244 to 188 vote, the House yesterday passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If passed by the Senate, the bill would quadruple investment in energy efficiency for buildings and appliances and boost research and development funding for renewable energy sources by 225 percent, according to the Center for American Progress. A new Renewable Energy Loan Guarantee program would provide $8 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. The full Senate is expected to take up its version of bill next week.

Two recent reports illustrate how important these kinds of federal policies are to U.S.renewable energy development. Earlier this week, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced that more wind power was installed in the United Statesin 2008 than ever before. The more than 8,300 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity -- enough to power more than 2 million average homes -- installed last year was more than a 50 percent jump from 2007. Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) released a report last week that found renewable energy, excluding conventional hydroelectric power, represented the largest new capacity growth in 2007 for the first time. More than 8,600 MW of capacity was installed.

If you build the right policies, clean energy will come. Renewable energy -- led by wind -- is finally exploding here in the United States, but it still has a long way to go. This growth shows that President Obama*s economic recovery goal of doubling renewable energy use in the next two years is achievable.

The EIA study noted that 2007 was the fourth year in a row that renewable energy*s portion of total power generation increased, but non-hydro renewables still only accounted for 2.5 percent of total electricity generation that year. And, although the United Statesbecame the world*s largest wind power producer in 2008, continued growth of the renewable energy industry -- and tens of thousands of jobs -- are dependent on enactment of the clean energy provisions of President Obama*s economic recovery package.

Congress can choose to promote job expansion in the wind industry, which currently employs more than 80,000, or stand by as tens of thousands in the industry lose their jobs due to the credit crunch and the expiration of the wind energy tax credit at the end of this year. The House chose to promote jobs, and now it*s the Senate*s turn. The Senate should follow the House*s lead and pass a multiyear extension of the tax credit and restructure it to account for the recession, allowing companies to use it even if they have no tax liabilities.

Renewable energy is a bright spot in our woefully dreary economic picture. Now*s the time to stoke development, not snuff it out. If passed by the Senate, more tax incentives and other green investment provisions would provide an instant jolt to the economy and underwrite new infrastructure that would help foster economic growth for years to come.