Buffett joins renewables-fossil fuels battle


Renewables advocates in the US resisting what they call a nationwide, state-by-state attempt by fossil fuel companies and utilities to halt the tide of renewable energy generation, appear to have a significant ally in legendary investor Warren Buffett.

Having bet big on renewables, including the purchase of SunPower's 579 MW Antelope Valley Solar Projects for an estimated $2-2.5 billion in January 2013, Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings changed its name to Berkshire Hathaway Energy three weeks ago, reflecting the name of the world-renowned investment house run by ‘The Sage of Omaha.'

And yesterday, Berkshire Hathaway-owned news agency PR Newswire ran a report about a call by the Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) group for clarity at a federal level on renewable energy tax credits and for individual U.S. states to resist attacks on renewables policies.

The PR Newswire release, which describes E2 as a ‘nonpartisan business group' quotes E2 figures showing the amount of new clean energy and clean transportation jobs created in the U.S. in the first three months of the year more than halved, in comparison with the same period of last year – from 12,000 to around 5,600.

Congress should reinstate PTCs

E2 points the finger of blame at the U.S. Congress for halting federal production tax credits (PTC) for wind, biofuels and energy efficiency and called for lawmakers to reinstate the tax credit, referring to recent claims by the American Wind Energy Association that legislative uncertainty has cost the industry 30,000 U.S. jobs.

The E2 report also highlights the importance of forthcoming carbon pollution standards, expected to be released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency early next month and which would apply emissions standards for power plants which opponents say will threaten affordable electricity and coal industry jobs across the nation.

Protect Ohio's renewables industry

According to the PR Newswire report, E2 is also calling on Ohio‘s Republican governor John Kasich to halt the progress of the state's Senate Bill 310, which would freeze energy efficiency and renewables targets in a state which, E2 says, needs to safeguard the nation's largest wind manufacturing industry. The report's authors note Indiana's state renewables target has been repealed but legislators in Kansas, New York and Vermont have resisted similar efforts by fossil fuel companies and utilities.

According to E2's figures, Idaho was the top U.S. state for clean energy and transport job creation from January to the end of March, thanks largely to the creation of 800 jobs by Aguacaliente's 25 MW geothermal project at Walker Ranch.

More traditional clean energy states, in the form of Texas, California, Missouri, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana, make up the rest of the top ten.

With E2 claiming the emphasis in solar is switching from large-scale utility schemes to residential installations – in terms of job creation – the only significant solar project mentioned for the first quarter is the 22 MW Barilla plant in Pecos County, Texas, which is expected to create around 350 new jobs.

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