Earlier this week, Congress blocked the most important green energy incentive America has: the renewable energy tax credit. This incentive for wind, solar, biomass and other sustainable energy sources has been allowed to lapse three different times since 2000.
Investors hate uncertainty, and with this kind of roller coaster tax planning, they have a hard time assessing whether their investments will pay off. In the face of this uncertainty, many investors will simply take their money elsewhere. I know because several told me so themselves.
The US Doesn’t Get the Investment Dollars
Two weeks ago, I traveled to the Arctic Ocean on the National Geographic Endeavor. Also onboard were several venture capitalists and renewable energy executives. To a person, they said that in the absence of stable incentives in the U.S. market, they are putting their money in countries that take renewables seriously: Germany, Japan, Spain, and Denmark.
Even Norway. Norway is not the sunniest place in the world, but it has nurtured a growing solar panel manufacturing industry.
What It Looks Like When a Nation Take Renewable Energy Seriously
On the Arctic trip, I met Alf Bjorseth, the CEO of Scatec. With incentives from his government, he bought old manufacturing plants in the far north of Norway. He took the factories lock, stock, and barrel, converted them, and used their trained work force to make solar panels. Now his company is one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world. He exports to Germany, Japan, and Spain. But not the United States. The market isn’t big enough here.
I asked Bjotseth, “Are you selling solar panel in Norway?” His answer was no, because it is dark half the time there. But that doesn’t mean Norway isn’t benefiting from Scatec’s jobs, income, and taxes.
That could be America, only we haven’t set up the right incentives and opportunities to encourage massive solar and wind markets.
If our elected officials are serious about driving down energy prices, they should start by promoting wind and solar--two limitless resources that will never inspire costly supply crises in global markets.
See if your representatives are interested in real solutions. Call their offices and ask if they are going to support extending the renewable energy production tax credit if it comes for a vote this fall.