Who's Killing Green Energy? The Recession, the Government, the Dollar ...

We don't know where the next energy revolution will come from. It might be wind. It might be solar. It might be new source of renewable energy, or a cleaner version of old energy sources, like coal. What we do know is that the high barriers to green energy are getting higher.

A strong dollar is helping to make imported fossil fuels relatively cheap, and a weak economy is making cheap utilities very attractive. The combined effect is that subsidized, but still relatively expensive "green" energy -- wind, for example -- is losing ground.

The New York Times reports:

Even as many politicians, environmentalists and consumers want renewable energy and reduced dependence on fossil fuels, a growing number of projects are being canceled or delayed because governments are unwilling to add even small amounts to consumers' electricity bills.

Deals to buy renewable power have been scuttled or slowed in states including Florida, Idaho and Kentucky as well as Virginia. By the end of the third quarter, year-to-date installations of new wind power dropped 72 percent from 2009 levels, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

The upshot is that wind energy investments are falling behind Europe and China:

green energy falling behind.png

Consider the perspective of energy companies trying to gauge this messiness. This summer I spoke with Eric Spiegel, the new CEO of Siemens USA, which is one of the country's top companies for engineering and producing machinery for the new green economy.

Read that interview here.

He mentioned three key areas where Washington's failure to act had created uncertainty for companies working on green energy. First, he said the failure of the climate change bill meant the country could go years without a carbon price (FLASHCARD here) to advantage clean technology by putting a price on the pollution caused by dirty tech. Second, he lamented the absence of a national renewable energy standard (FLASHCARD here), which would force utilities to include more energy from wind and solar. Third, he expressed concern about the future of the solar and wind turbine investment tax credits.

"If you don't do anything on carbon and you don't have renewable energy standards or investment tax credit, every utility company would go out tomorrow and build coal," he told me.

As the New York Times reports, his fears sound prescient.