Denise Bode has high hopes for American windpower

Bode talks about the environmental and economic benefits of windpower, and urges the U.S. to adopt a national renewable electricity standard.

Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C., spoke to EarthSky about the growth of windpower in the United States.

Denise Bode: The U.S. is number one in the world as of this year, in terms of developing wind generation.

Bode spoke of a new report by the Department of Energy that found about 30 percent of the world’s wind power comes from the U.S., which led with over 25 thousand megawatts produced in 2008.

Denise Bode: But right behind us is China, in terms of fastest growing new countries. But China is growing so exponentially because their policies require renewable generation to be added to their portfolio.

Bode expressed concern over the United States’ own lack of a national renewable electric standard, made up of laws requiring utilities to derive a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar, each year.

Denise Bode: Wind is clean, it avoids carbon, so it is good environmental policy. It uses little water, so it can save consumers money. And I think, if we get this renewable electric standard, we can be the bright new spot in the economy, adding a huge number of manufacturing jobs.

These manufacturing jobs would involve building and assembling the over 8,000 parts of a wind turbine.

Denise Bode talked more about why she thinks the U.S. needs a national renewable electricity standard.

Denise Bode: Renewable electric standards basically instruct the utilities that it’s in the national interest in their countries to have renewables as part of their electric generation. It’s what a utility does. They look to the government to determine these kinds of generation portfolios on a regular basis even here in the United States, in exchange for getting a guaranteed rate of return. They get guaranteed income because they’re a regulated monopoly and in exchange they look to the government to tell them what’s in the state interest, what’s in the national interest. In the United States, we don’t have that policy. So the utilities are not moving to diversify the portfolio unless their particular state has decided they’re going to have that standard.

We asked Ms. Bode to respond to criticism that wind power is more costly to consumers than power from non-renewable sources such as coal-fired power plants.

Denise Bode: Actually, every analysis that’s been done shows that utility bills go down. The Department of Energy had a recent study that came out just in the month. The Union of Concerned Scientists has done an analysis nationwide. Every time wind power is introduced into the grid, it avoids a fuel cost. Because there is no fuel cost. So that’s why, if you’re putting wind on a grid, in particular you avoid the marginal fuel, which tends to be natural gas. So even at low natural gas prices, there’s still a cost. And with wind, there’s no cost. So that’s how you save money. And in fact while I was chairman of the Oklahoma Commission, we introduced wind into our portfolio and our utilities testified in the several states they do business that in every state where wind was added, it reduced the cost to consumers.

She explained why the U.S. had experienced a recent surge in windpower, explaining that it had to do with wind turbine parts.

Denise Bode: In the last three years, what’s really changed and what’s really caused last year, us to lead along with natural gas, all new generation being built in the US, was that we increased from 25 percent to 50 percent of the component parts being manufactured in the US.

Jorge Salazar