Perspectives: A Mainstream Industry Deserving Mainstream Attention

By Russell Ray

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the speech Russell Ray delivered at the keynote session of Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo, held February 14-16, 2012, in Long Beach, Calif. Ray is managing editor of Power Engineering and former senior associate editor of Hydro Review.

The energy world is evolving, and, in many parts of North America, renewables are becoming a mainstream source of electricity production. The renewables energy industry is no longer on the outside looking in … this industry now has a seat at the table.

Hydropower is alive and well in North America. In Canada, utilities have plans to spend more than $50 billion on new hydropower projects over the next 10 to 15 years … $50 billion! In the U.S., the number of preliminary permits issued to hydropower developers has doubled in the past year. And, the U.S. Department of Energy has identified 54,000 U.S. dams that could be used to add nearly 13,000 MW of hydropower capacity to the grid.

In 2011, the U.S. installed nearly 7,000 MW of new wind power. That’s a 31% increase over 2010. Last year, construction began on more than 8,000 MW of wind power capacity.

Over the next four years, nearly 6,000 MW of utility-scale solar projects are expected to be built in the U.S. Another 1,300 MW of solar will be built in Canada.

More companies are entering the U.S. geothermal market. Several demonstration projects are moving forward. Utilities and municipalities, especially in the West, are driving geothermal expansion on a large scale.

Without question, this is a mainstream industry that deserves mainstream attention.

The U.S. has established some lofty goals for the power sector. By 2035, 80% of America’s power must come from clean resources. By 2020, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 17%. And yet, federal incentives for renewable energy may be going away at the end of this year. I can think of no other industry that is more deserving of long-term stability. The oil and gas industry benefited from years of federal investment in new technology and still does.

To reach this nation’s clean-energy goals, the production tax credit for wind should be extended and the 1603 grant program, which helped fund 20,000 renewable energy projects in the U.S., should be restored. Government should play a role in creating a clean-energy future. It can do that by mandating change and encouraging new development. Government needs to maintain these federal incentives in the name of clean air and clean water, for a better environment and for the preservation and creation of American jobs.

Major announcement

The Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo will be co-located with POWER-GEN International later this year in December 11-13, 2012, in Orlando, Fla. As many of you know, POWER-GEN International is the world’s largest annual forum for the power generation industry. PennWell, the company that organizes both events, is excited about this new union. Blending these two events will create even more networking opportunities and will add even more value to both. To learn more, visit

Russell Ray is managing editor of Power Engineering magazine, a PennWell publication and a sister magazine of Hydro Review.

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