A Word from the Executive Director
It’s been an eventful few months at the Wind Solar Alliance (WSA), and in the broader U.S. electricity sector, since our last newsletter. In that time we’ve released three major reports, churned out nearly a dozen events highlighting the benefits of local wind and solar projects, reached millions of viewers with our pro-renewables messaging through earned and social media, and re-branded as the Wind Solar Alliance.
In October, we published our second report on the need for large corporate renewable energy buyers to increase their engagement with regional transmission planners. In November, we released a groundbreaking paper on the wholesale power market reforms necessary to enable a low-cost, clean energy future. That same month, we also released a new report demonstrating the economic benefits of wind and solar energy development in Texas and began hosting press events for local legislators. More details on those reports and their dissemination are found below.
WSA’s “Jobs Tour” passed its one year mark last fall, continuing to create events where legislators and press in key states could learn more about the job creation and economic benefits that the U.S. wind and solar industries are delivering to their communities. In total, the Tour has delivered 17 events, with 12 occurring in 2018. The events generated over 300 press clips, over two dozen new videos, and millions of impressions online.
From a broad perspective, these programs are a relatively small part of a mosaic of efforts across the country that are assisting the U.S. electricity sector’s continued shift to more renewable power – albeit one that is moving more slowly than many would like. The good news is that these efforts, along with low-costs and record corporate purchases, led to more than 11.5 gigawatts of new utility-scale wind and solar projects coming online last year according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
However, low costs alone were not enough for wind and solar to capture the lion share of new additions. Over 60 percent of the total market share was captured by natural gas, contributing to a rise in power sector carbon emissions for the first time for the first time in four years – up nearly 2 percent over 2017, according to preliminary analysis from the Rhodium Group.
But with newly elected, pro-clean energy Governors and state legislators taking office in the fall of 2018, the pendulum quickly swung the other way. In the first few months of 2019 a flurry of states and utilities have set 100 percent clean energy standards and goals. That momentum will need to continue in the years ahead, and WSA hopes to play an important role in those efforts.
In the midst of all this work and change, WSA has also seen staffing changes. In January, after four and a half years of building and expanding our programs, John Kostyack began a new chapter in his career, joining the National Whistleblower Center in Washington, D.C. as their Executive Director. After serving as the Director of Public Affairs over three years, I’ve now stepped into John’s role and will continue to seek to expand and deepen WSA’s work. In the months ahead, I look forward to continuing to lead WSA as we develop new research products and events that will help inform the public, educate key decision makers, and help drive the necessary shifts in our power markets and in state utility commissions and legislatures needed to deliver a clean energy future.
Kevin O’Rourke, Interim Executive Director
ARA Grid Campaign
As mentioned above, the Grid Campaign, working closely with Grid Strategies, released a groundbreaking new report proposing pro-consumer, pro-clean energy changes to wholesale electricity market rules, with a focus on a suite of reforms for PJM and MISO. That report, Customer-Focused and Clean: Power Markets for the Future, is the first public offering supported by the wind and solar industries that demonstrates the numerous ways existing market structures favor older, large and slow-to-react resources. Released on a press call with senior leadership from AWEA and SEIA, it has garnered coverage in POLITICO, Bloomberg, the Washington Examiner, and many energy trade outlets, including Greentech Media and RTO Insider. We also received favorable comments on the report from leadership and key staff at FERC, PJM, and MISO.
Over the last several months, we’ve continued to disseminate the report to key audiences in variety of ways. Rob Gramlich, Founder and President of Grid Strategies, has presented the report to audiences at OPSI, ELCON, the PJM Consumer Advocates, and on the Norton Rose Fulbright “Currents” podcast. We’ve also held in-person meetings with public utility commissioners in more than 15 states throughout both PJM and MISO and worked with former NREL expert, Michael Milligan, to setup meetings with key utility commissions, and FERC and PJM staff on the abilities of wind, solar, and storage to provide essential grid reliability services.
In Texas, WSA worked closely with Austin-based economists TXP and IdeaSmiths to produce a comprehensive report on the economic benefits that wind and solar energy have delivered to the state over the last eight years. The report delivered several new, useful data points for advocates to use in the on-going legislative session, including $5.7 billion in consumer savings generated from the wind and solar projects from 2010-2017 and more than $210 million in local tax revenue delivered by the two industries last year alone. WSA has held events near major metropolitan areas to highlight these benefits for key legislators, including at E.ON’s Austin facility, Shermco Industries in the Dallas area, and Apex Clean Energy’s Fort Hood project.
The first event, hosted at E.ON’s Austin offices in the last week of November, brought together several state legislators and their staff for a tour of company’s control room. The event was covered by local broadcast, KXAN. WSA also worked with Shermco Industries to host a state rep. and several local economic development officials on a tour of their Irving facility. The tour highlighted the growth of the company and how the company hires from the local community college.
At the Fort Hood event, a key state representative joined representatives from the company, the financing community, and local trade groups to highlight the cost-saving and energy-security benefits of the base’s on-site solar installation. The event was covered by the local paper, the Killeen Daily Herald and two local TV stations.
Throughout the last quarter off 2018, WSA also delivered the key findings from the report to conservative audiences throughout the state via social media, with the ads viewed over 4 million times thus far. The ads and the microsite were picked up by the press, generating favorable coverage in the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, the Laredo News, and PV Magazine.
ARA Jobs Tour
The Jobs Tour continued to create press events in key states across the country throughout the final months of 2018, highlighting the job creation and other economic benefits of wind and solar energy development. In August, the Tour hosted two events in Iowa and an event in New Mexico. At Alliant Energy’s Upland Prairie Wind Farm in Everly, IA, the tour collaborated with AWEA to present Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley with a Wind Champion award for his long-standing support of wind energy development. The event was covered in seven local press clips, including an editorial by the Fort Dodge Messenger. In Audubon, Iowa, the Tour worked with NextEra Energy Resources and the Central Iowa Power Cooperative to host local economic development officials and press at a groundbreaking of their new Heartland Divide wind project. The event was covered by the Audubon County Advocate.
In New Mexico, State Senator Pat Woods joined New Mexico Secretary of Energy, Minerals, & Natural Resources Ken McQueen and local economic development officials at an event to highlight the start of construction at Pattern Energy’s Grady Wind Farm. Local print and broadcast outlets covered the event, which was also picked up by the regional Associated Press.
The Tour continued to deliver events throughout the fall, with stops in Minnesota, Texas, and Michigan in September, October, and November, respectively. In Minnesota, WSA produced a new report to highlight the job growth at Mortenson Construction and Ulteig Engineers, two companies with significant business in Minnesota’s wind and solar sectors. The press event brought together the CEOs of AWEA, SEIA, and ESA for the first time ever and was covered locally. In Texas, the Tour celebrated the ribbon-cutting of the Cactus Flats wind farm that will supply power to General Mills and General Motors with local economic development officials, garnering coverage in two local print outlets. In Michigan, the Tour hosted a roundtable discussion with local clean energy businesses, city officials, and utility representatives on the job creation and other economic benefits of Traverse City Light & Power’s recently announced 100 percent clean energy goal at its headquarters. The event focused on how both wind and solar energy provide career opportunities for veterans. Two local broadcast outlets covered the event and one of the event participants, a veteran, published a follow-up letter to the editor in two outlets. Full details on the Jobs Tour are found on our A Renewable America website.
WSA has continued to amplify all Jobs Tour events on social media, targeting the posts at audiences in the states hosting the events. To date, paid Jobs Tour social media posts have now been viewed over 4 million times in these key states.
Electric Nation: Powered by Wind
At the end of 2018, WSA wrapped up work on our project to engage key demographics of potential wind energy supporters. Over the course of the two and a half year project, our Electric Nation: Powered by Wind Facebook page became the largest online community of wind energy supporters in the U.S.
The page reached audiences well over 15 million times, and focused on building an emotional connection between wind energy and viewers by using a mix of good news, humor, great images, and stories of the many Americans that are benefitting from wind energy development. The American Wind Energy Association will continue to manage the page moving forward, ensuring that the community stays engaged and supportive of wind energy in the months and years ahead.
For those in the wind industry, we hope you’ll join WSA for our now second annual Fun Run at WINDPOWER this year in Houston. We are holding the run the morning of May 22nd at 7:00 AM. Dozens of runners from the conference will join AWEA and WSA staff. Proceeds from the run support WSA’s charitable efforts to educate the public and advocate for renewable energy across the country. You can sign up for the run through AWEA’s WINDPOWER registration website. If you can’t make the run, WSA will also have a booth at the conference, so stop by and say hello. Hope to see you there!