“What you’re doing is you’re taking taxpayers’ money and trying to find a way to appease a policy of a constituent group or a lobbying group,” Stitt said in an interview. . “And I just believe you should let the free market work.”
Stitt is proud of the state’s position as the third-largest wind power producer in the United States, behind only Texas and Iowa. More than 40% of Oklahoma’s electricity comes from wind generation, and the state has more than 20,000 clean energy jobs, or about 1.3% of its workforce. But he disputes the idea that an expansion of wind tax credits could do more to help his state’s economy.
When asked if he thinks the bill’s technology-neutral approach to tax credits could spur advanced nuclear, carbon capture and other technologies that Republicans have traditionally favored, he said. replied, “I don’t think so.” Referring to Washington’s previous rounds of multi-trillion-dollar pandemic relief packages, he added, “I’m just saying to you, as governor, with [the American Rescue Plan] and with the CARES Act and all the federal money coming in, the states don’t even know where to spend it all.
Renewable energy tax credits have historically enjoyed bipartisan support, largely due to the diversity of states that naturally have strong wind and solar resources, said Jeffrey Davis, partner at Tax Transactions & Consulting Group. of the Mayer Brown law firm and co-head of the firm’s renewable energy group. But the price of the new bill, including its $369 billion in climate and energy spending, is likely too much for the GOP to swallow, he said.
That said, states like Oklahoma have undoubtedly won and will most likely benefit from federal tax incentives, he added.
The climate bill, HR 5376 (117), is “a game-changer,” he said. “It’s really going to have a positive impact on the development of renewable energy projects, including wind, and I expect Oklahoma…to benefit from that.”
Forty percent of energy sector jobs in the United States are in the clean energy or clean transportation sectors, according to a recent report by environmental business group Environmental Entrepreneurs. And those jobs are roughly split in half between red and blue congressional districts.
“These benefits will go to all states, and I’m not just saying that. We know this because we’ve looked at the data,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs. “And we know where clean energy jobs are growing right now: it’s not in blue states, it’s not in red states. It’s in every state.
The country’s wind energy ability has grown from just 40 gigawatts in 2011 to 118 gigawatts by the end of 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Solar generation in the United States has grown from less than 1 gigawatt in 2008 to more than 97 gigawatts today, according to the Department of Energy.
Costs have also fallen. Solar panels cost about a fifth of what they cost a decade ago, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Similarly, wind turbine costs have fallen from around $1.80 per watt in 2008 to as little as $0.77 per watt, according to a 2021 report from the Department of Energy.
Republican-led states are among the largest producers of wind and solar energy in the United States and have benefited greatly from the past decade of green energy expansion, not only through job growth, but also thanks to lower prices paid by taxpayers.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the clean energy boom has been Texas. The state produces more wind power per megawatt than any other state, as well as the second-largest solar power in the nation, and ranks only behind California in clean energy jobs, with more than a quarter million.
It also has huge potential for more wind and solar power. Texas leads in wind potential with a possible capacity of 1.3 million megawatts and ranks as the fourth sunniest state in the United States, with the highest solar capacity by land mass, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Texas also saved hundreds of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer bills thanks to renewable energy, according to a 2018 report commissioned by the American Council on Renewable Energy. And preliminary results from last year show the state’s grid saved tens of millions of dollars a day, given soaring natural gas prices, said Webber associate researcher Joshua Rhodes Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin.
Renewables have also become essential to the state’s ability to meet electricity demand in late spring and summer. During a heat wave in May, after several fossil fuel generators went offline, possibly due to delayed maintenance after an unexpected heat wave, according to the Texas Tribune, solar was providing 73% of its installed capacity, compared to 66% for power plants such as coal. , nuclear and natural gas. A similar heat wave in August saw solar resources at 81%, close to the performance of those other power plants, which were at 85%.
“In Texas, about half of peak demand is powered by air conditioning. And it’s the same sun that causes our buildings to need air conditioning that powers solar panels,” Rhodes said. “So, you know, they correlate pretty well.”
He added that the climate bill has the potential to “overburden” the renewable energy market in Texas and beyond.
But Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott has become increasingly critical of renewables in recent years, blaming them for much of the blame for last year’s blackouts that left million people without power for weeks, despite consensus between regulators and the state grid. operator who many of the problems were related to natural gas plants. He was also among the governors to sign the statement against the climate bill.
Abbott’s office did not respond to requests for comment on whether the governor supports any of the bill’s energy provisions.
Conservatives and moderates alike have questioned why more incentives are needed for green energy industries that have already seen record growth in recent years. Among the skeptics was West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who eventually struck a deal with fellow Democrats that allowed the legislation to go forward. The the agreement added many kinds of pro-fossil fuel provisions that GOP members generally support.
But many Republicans are still not sold.
Stitt acknowledges that incentives have sometimes helped boost industries during market lulls. For example, the state had implemented its own production tax credit for wind power until a previous governor ended the incentives in 2017, and Still said the state also issued necessary incentives for oil and gas drilling.
Electric vehicles are also starting to take off in the state: It has the most Level 3 electric vehicle chargers per capita (the fastest type) of all US states, according to Oklahoma’s Secretary of Energy and Environment. Earlier this year, Stitt pledged $15 million to electric vehicle startup Canoo to support the development of new manufacturing facilities in the state. He said he had asked his Department of Commerce to “take on ‘electric vehicle manufacturing’ because we recognize that’s where the research and development dollars are going.”
But Stitt isn’t interested in seeing more federal dollars spent in these industries. He said it was more efficient to let states and the private market drive investment and research.
“You let the private sector work,” he said. “Keeping close to another $400 billion in giveaways, I don’t think that’s the answer.”
Likewise, Republican Georgia Utilities Regulator Lauren McDonald – dubbed by clean energy advocates as “the godfather of solar” in the state after overseeing a surge in the resource as the tax credit Federal has driven prices down – now believes more spending will only worsen high energy prices. The rising costs will overshadow any benefits the bill brings for clean energy, he said.
“If spending more money is going to lower inflation, I went to the wrong school of economics,” McDonald said.
In an emailed statement, Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts expressed similar concerns. “There are many opportunities for the president to develop American energy without raising taxes on Americans,” he said, including resuming construction of the Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline and permanently extending a recent move to have ethanol make up 15% of gasoline blends.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who like Ricketts also signed the GOP statement, has been an aggressive supporter of electric vehicle maker Rivian moving into the state, offering the company $1.5 billion dollars in incentives to build the plant east of Atlanta. The state is also home to the nation’s largest solar power manufacturer. Kemp’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“It’s not black and white,” said Bryan Jacob, solar program director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “I think it’s probably important to distinguish between the popularity and the benefits of growing the clean energy economy from…some of the specific policies and policies on how you get there.
representing Sean Casten (D-Ill.) pointed to the incongruity of Republicans arguing for fossil fuel expansion — and accompanying subsidies — while insisting on incentives for cheaper resources like wind and solar.
“If you want to lower the price of energy for people, deploy assets that cost nothing to operate,” he said. “If you care about inflation, do it.”