A Word from the Executive Director
In my roughly 30 years building campaigns to advocate for conservation and renewable energy policy, I have learned that a key step in campaign planning is often overlooked or shortchanged: ensuring that current and potential coalition members have a meaningful opportunity to shape strategy. Two weeks ago, the Wind Energy Foundation, working in partnership with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) took on this challenge. We convened roughly 60 leaders of renewable energy companies and trade associations, major foundations, and environmental and science NGOs at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, California, for a daylong session focused on developing a vision and strategy for advocating on grid policy in the coming decade. No grand plan was hatched, but based on feedback received from workshop participants, I sense this community of like-minded advocates now has a stronger sense of how to define success and how to execute the work that lies ahead.
We started this workshop with the presumption that some of the most important policy tools for addressing fossil fuel externalities, such as pricing carbon pollution or strengthening renewable portfolio standards, are not likely to win broad support in a significant number of state capitols in the foreseeable future. Yet, in many of these same states, new utility-scale renewables are cost-competitive with fossil and nuclear energy and are reliably producing abundant low-cost electricity. But, as many workshop participants pointed out, rapid deployment is hindered by antiquated market rules and a balkanized, aging grid infrastructure.
With 2017 ranking as the third hottest year on record (lagging only behind 2016 and 2015), time is of the essence for winning the energy and infrastructure policy changes needed to unlock the best wind and solar resources and deliver them to market. Workshop participants generally agreed that we must strengthen our advocacy at the Independent System Operators and Public Utility Commissions to achieve these changes. Many participants also enthusiastically embraced the idea that advocacy must go far beyond the traditional technical presentations before the agencies to include “local jobs success story” events and other communications featuring the many benefits that renewable energy project provide to their host communities and the broader public.
Although much of the conversation during the day was focused on state and regional work, we also enjoyed an excellent keynote presentation from FERC Commissioner Richard Glick. Commissioner Glick highlighted the large and growing list of pressing electricity market and transmission issues that are playing out before his agency and that require all of our attention.
WEF plans to build on the ideas and positive energy from this workshop to strengthen all of its advocacy programs and its collaborations with industry, foundation and NGO partners.
John Kostyack, WEF Executive Director
A Renewable America (ARA)
ARA Jobs Tour
A key focus of ARA is mobilizing renewable energy companies and their supply chains to educate the public and key decision makers on the economic benefits of solar and wind energy. In recent months, the ARA Jobs Tour has made stops in Denver and Matheson, Colorado and Paulding, Ohio to highlight the job creation and other economic benefits of the two technologies.
In Denver, State Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D, SD-34) joined local solar companies E-Light Electric and Namaste Solar for a tour of GRID Alternatives and the Denver Housing Authority’s Solar Training Academy. ARA livestreamed the event on the WEF Facebook page and Sen. Guzman wrote an op-ed about her experience for the local political journal, supporting the job training program and solar energy. In Matheson, State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R, SD-1), Representative Kimmi Lewis (Eastern CO), Lincoln County Economic Development Director Troy McCue, Rod Pelton (candidate for HD-65), joined representatives from Xcel Energy and Vestas on a tour of the 600 megawatt Rush Creek wind farm currently under construction in eastern Colorado. The tour was covered by the Denver Business Journal, CBS 4 Denver, 9News Denver, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and local radio, highlighting the job creation and local economic benefits of the project.
In Paulding, Ohio, local leaders, General Motors (GM), and Starwood Energy Group joined together to debut the Northwest Ohio Wind Farm. The project is employing about 300 workers during construction and will deliver nearly $1 million in annual benefits to the host community. GM will purchase the output from the project to offset its energy use at manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Indiana. A regional (IN, MI, and OH) press strategy attracted four local broadcast stations and four local print outlets to our press conference, with six additional outlets attending a regional tele-news conference that followed the in-person event. The results of this effort were impressive: over 70 press hits across the nation in total, as the Associated Press (AP) also picked up the story. Of that 70, we generated 20 unique stories in outlets in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The AP story landed in the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Times, and the Miami Herald, among other outlets. Important local print outlets such as the Columbus Dispatch, the Akron Beacon Journal and MLive covered the event, in addition to local broadcast coverage by WANE (IN) and WTOL (OH), among others. We’ll continue to look for additional opportunities to turn regional events into national news in upcoming Jobs Tour events.
ARA Grid Campaign
In New Mexico, ARA worked with Interwest Energy Alliance to deliver expert testimony in the PNM Integrated Resource Plan proceeding on the pending retirement of their San Juan coal generating facilities. The testimony detailed how PNM should: (1) not limit the quantity of wind and solar resources in its modeling; (2) better account for the timing of investment drivers, such as federal tax credits; (3) improve documentation on its modeling assumptions; (4) improve fairness and transparency in identifying the lowest-cost resources; and (5) develop a formal plan for incorporating merchant transmission plans within their region to better assess the potential delivery of renewable resources to serve the PNM load. ARA will continue to look for opportunities to amplify this narrative in the local press as the case continues over the summer.
In ERCOT, MISO, and PJM, ARA continues to work with AWEA, SEIA, and engaged member companies to solidify shared wind-solar objectives on market rules, transmission, and localized threats and opportunities. Stay tuned for new reports and advocacy throughout the remainder of the year.
Electric Nation: Powered by Wind
The social media education campaign Electric Nation: Powered by Wind continues to grow, as we now reach nearly three-quarters of a million people each month. We continue to innovate with new content to strengthen our audiences’ emotional connection with wind energy. This past month, we debuted new six-second videos, produced from still images, that help connect our audiences with the people that benefit from wind energy development.
Many of the over 178,000 followers on our campaign’s Facebook page are continuing to help disseminate pro-wind messages to their networks and helping to quash anti-wind misinformation, particularly in rural America. Now included within the Electric Nation community are more than 18,300 supporters in rural areas with significant wind development.