Prioritizing wind energy in 2008

Prioritizing wind energy in 2008
Energy policy is changing in this country, and South Dakota is perfectly positioned to contribute to, and benefit from, that change. To be sure, the recently enacted energy bill takes great strides in making this country energy independent, including an historic new Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). However, despite these positive aspects, I was disappointed that certain provisions, including the establishment of a national Renewable Electricity Standard and the extension of renewable energy production tax credits, could not gain enough support from Senate Republicans or the Administration to be included in the final package.

These provisions would have encouraged the development of the infrastructure needed to harness one of South Dakota's most important and valuable, yet underdeveloped assets – our wind. While I strongly supported these provisions and worked closely with the Speaker's office to secure their passage in the House, the bill was stripped of these provisions during negotiations with the Senate and the White House.

Developing our wind resources will provide a tremendous economic driver for our state's rural areas and overall economy while also reducing carbon emissions. According to the American Wind Energy Association, South Dakota ranks fourth in the nation in wind energy potential – some studies suggest first or second – so we must be committed to its development. Fortunately, our state has begun putting in place some of the infrastructure necessary to fully realize this potential. Last week, I toured MinnDakota, a 150 MW wind power project located partially in Brookings County. As the largest wind power project in South Dakota to date, MinnDakota will provide enough electricity to completely power 14,000 households when operating at full capacity. This is an exciting beginning, but more needs to be done.

To vastly increase the role that wind plays in our nation's energy policy, Congress must act this year to provide wind energy entrepreneurs and developers with the incentives and certainty they need to invest their time, energy and resources in this burgeoning industry. I still believe that provisions stripped from the final Energy Bill have substantial merit and support, and I will work in this session of Congress to revisit all of them, particularly the extension of the production tax credits. This wind energy production tax credit has been allowed to expire repeatedly in recent years, each time inflicting tremendous damage and delays because of economic uncertainty on efforts to expand wind energy development.

Another aspect of the House-approved energy bill that I hope will again be considered in the coming year is the provision creating the New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds ("CREBs") Program. Creation of this program would have authorized $2 billion of new clean renewable energy bonds for public power providers and electric cooperatives. These bonds would be used by public power entities and electric cooperatives to finance facilities that generate electricity from renewable resources like wind.

In addition, I believe the establishment of a national Renewable Electricity Standard, or RES, is critical to the development of South Dakota's wind energy industry. Much like the initial RFS enacted in 2005, a national RES would have a dramatic effect on the wind energy industry. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted individual standards.

As we strive to meet our national energy needs, we recognize that South Dakota has much to offer. We can be at the center of the solution as our national energy policy shifts and adjusts in ways that enhance our national security; that are conscientious of families' and business' budgets; and that promote both innovation and conservation. Given the irrefutable benefits a robust wind industry would provide South Dakota and our country in meeting its goal of energy security, I am hopeful that we will be successful in enacting these important provisions in the coming year.

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