US Wind Power Outfits’ Shares Plummet – Hundreds of ‘Green’ Jobs Axed
Remember all those stories about the wind industry providing millions of groovy, well-paid ‘green’ jobs – as secure as Fort Knox?
Sure, you’ll hear mention of loads of promised wind industry jobs – in fictional retellings from wind industry spruikers – as they wail about dreaded ‘uncertainty’ – causing bankers to baulk and investors to flee; and as they demand (with menaces) that governments maintain essential, massive and endless subsidies until the end of time.
But, as is almost always the case with wind industry drivel, dreams and reality fast become an ugly amalgam, of what passes for wind industry ‘truth’.
When economists scroll through the books, however, claims about wind industry employment evaporate like snowflakes in summer – and, instead, the hard numbers show that the places where these things proliferate, are suffering from declining employment in real industries, particularly those with the tendency to use more than just a little power in the processes of production:
It’s a confusing paradox, to be sure.
You see, on the one hand we’re told that the wind industry delivers a product, that customers can’t get enough of (at prices starting somewhere near “free” – and getting cheaper all the time), but, strangely, the merest mention or even hint that wind power subsidies might be trimmed or, heaven forbid, chopped, has wind industry parasites descending into a fixed state of apoplexy.
During their descent, wind industry spinners shout even louder about millions of new jobs, that are always just beyond the horizon; attainable – but if, and only if, the massive subsidies presently in place are set in stone. Here are a couple of pieces peppered with precisely that type of self-serving and deluded ranting.
Panel seeks to extend freeze on Ohio green energy targets
Julie Carr Smyth
1 October 2015
Government requirements for the use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy by Ohio power companies would be suspended indefinitely under recommendations released Wednesday by a legislative panel. The Energy Mandates Study Committee’s report cites legal uncertainty and a need for “greater clarity” surrounding proposed federal clean power rules among reasons for the recommendation.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Government requirements for the use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy by Ohio power companies would be suspended indefinitely under recommendations released Wednesday by a legislative panel.
The Energy Mandates Study Committee’s report cites legal uncertainty and a need for “greater clarity” surrounding proposed federal clean power rules among reasons for the recommendation. The suggestion drew swift criticism from environmental groups, alternative energy businesses, Democrats and Gov. John Kasich.
Committee chairman Troy Balderson, a Zanesville Republican, said the report represents a starting point for debate as legislation proposing changes to Ohio’s mandates is drafted.
“Look, I know what the headline on the report’s going to be. There’s more to it than that,” he said. “And there will continue to be more to it than that. Now we have to go through the legislative process.”
The panel’s additional recommendations include ultimately switching from mandates to an incentive system to encourage use of renewables and efforts toward energy efficiency; expediting the regulatory process for approving utilities’ energy-efficiency plans; and ensuring advanced-energy projects receive maximum credit.
The panel was charged with reviewing an Ohio law requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from alternative and advanced sources by 2025 and to meet certain energy efficiency targets.
The committee was created as part of a compromise brokered by Kasich amid efforts to repeal the targets outright. The deal placed a two-year freeze on phasing in existing mandates while the issue was studied. If legislators fail to act, the law would resume as planned in 2017.
The administration signaled dissatisfaction with extending the freeze any further.
“A continued freeze of Ohio’s energy standards is unacceptable and we stand willing to work with the Ohio General Assembly to craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state’s economy,” Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews said.
Ohio is among states that have sued over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sets targets for carbon dioxide emissions for existing power plants as a means of reducing emissions from 2005 levels by 32 percent by 2030. Kasich has written to President Barack Obama asking him to hold off on implementing the plan until questions are resolved by the courts.
“The US EPA, by promulgation of the proposed CPP, seeks to change the energy landscape significantly across the United States,” the report states.
Senate President Keith Faber said lawmakers and the governor — who was represented in deliberations over the report — may have to “agree to disagree.”
“I know their EPA director has gone and urged everybody to be cautious until we see the implementation of what the president’s new proposals are,” he said. “And so at this point, I’d like to hear their proposal if they think what we’re putting forward is unacceptable.”
Proponents argue that Ohio’s targets were creating jobs and benefiting the environment before they were frozen, and that the state would continue to do so if allowed to proceed.
State Rep. Michael Stinziano, a Columbus Democrat who sat on the Republican-dominated study committee, said the report’s recommendations ignore expert testimony by a number of witnesses “who attested to the positive impacts these standards had on the state until frozen.”
Senate Democrats called on Kasich to fight for restoration of the mandates.
“Allowing the clean energy industry to prosper could result in better products, a healthier population, cheaper prices, and more jobs over time,” they wrote.
Samantha Williams, attorney and energy policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Ohio’s momentum as “a clean energy trailblazer” has stalled.
“Any policies that block progress to regain Ohio’s leadership will only grow the mountain of missed opportunities and keep the state lagging behind its neighbors that are moving forward with clean energy to create jobs, boost their economy and protect public health,” she said in a statement.
The usual grab bag of nonsense is predictably pitched up by Samantha Williams – about wind power being a “clean energy” source; and a serious source of lasting jobs. Although, when the term “lasting” is used, we tend to think of jobs that don’t disappear with the merest hint of reining in a pointless subsidy.
Then there’s the claims about these things generating a “healthier population”!?!. Here’s a few from our archive that tend to suggest the opposite:
Audacity is the very essence of propaganda; taking patent nonsense, wrapping it in myth and pitching it up with a straight face, has been the core competence of the wind industry from the get go – it’s a skill that will follow it to its already dug and waiting grave.
Here’s another view of a panicked industry on the run, from Oklahoma.
Bill introduced to end wind tax credit
7 October 2015
A senator from the windswept state of Oklahoma wants to remove a tax credit for wind energy from the tax code.
Republican Sen. James Lankford introduced a bill Wednesday, titled the PTC Elimination Act, that would remove the Production Tax Credit from the tax code entirely. The credit expired at the end of 2014, but a renewal is attached to a tax extenders package making its way through Congress.
Lankford, echoing oil industry groups who spoke against the credit last month, said wind energy has become self-sustaining and no longer needs to be subsidized federally.
“I am a fan of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and I certainly support wind as a large part of that goal,” he said.
“There is no need for the taxpayer to continue to subsidize a wind start-up tax credit.”
In addition to wind, the Production Tax Credit is tied to 11 other sources of renewable energy.
For wind, the tax credit is 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of a facility’s existence. Lankford estimates the tax credit would cost taxpayers $10.5 billion during the next 10 years.
Right now, projects that began before Jan. 1 still qualify for the tax credit. Under Lankford’s bill, the last day any company could receive funds from the credit would be Dec. 31, 2026.
Lankford has campaigned in the past on relying more on fossil fuels, such as natural gas, instead of renewable sources.
Observers say it’s unlikely the bill will make much progress.
Oklahoma is a major player in wind energy. In 2014, the state was ranked fourth for installed wind capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
There are 2,614 wind turbines in Oklahoma that produced about 17 percent of all electricity produced there in 2014, according to the association.
Lankford contends the tax credit has outlived its usefulness and is a redundancy since 37 states already provide incentives for wind energy production. He said wind generation has grown 5,000 percent since the tax credit was instituted in 1992.
Some business groups disagree.
On Monday, 580 companies working in clean energy from around the country signed a letter urging Congress to extend the credit. Meanwhile, 2,000 businessmen and women signed a letter that also called on Congress to extend the tax credit, according to the wind trade group.
The Senate Finance Committee passed the extension of the credit 23-3. That included yes votes from senators on both sides of the aisle.
Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, said he’s hopeful that, contrary to Lankford’s bill, the wind tax credit will be renewed by the end of 2015.
“Hundreds of American businesses employing American workers have also made it clear extending these incentives is critical to plan their business and keep their doors open,” he said. “We will continue to educate all members of Congress about all of wind energy’s benefits to our economy.”
Good to see that the same rubbish pitched up by Samantha Williams in Ohio, being recycled by the AWEA’s Rob Gramlich – eerily familiar stuff; as you’d expect from people chanting the same mantra, from the same playbook.
Now, why would wind industry parasites like Samantha Williams and Rob Gramlich be fighting tooth-and-nail to ensure that the wind power subsidy trough is replenished from now until Armageddon?
Here’s a little clue.
After buying binge, SunEdison to cut 15% of workforce
6 October 2015
SunEdison Inc., the world’s largest renewable energy developer, plans to cut 15 percent of its personnel after a yearlong spending spree and a precipitous drop in its stock price.
The cuts among the company’s 7,300 staff are even deeper than what was originally reported yesterday by Greentech Media. The board of the company decided a week ago to carry out the layoffs in the face of a slowing market and to eliminate redundancies among its many new arms, according to a document filed yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
SunEdison plans a phone call with investors tomorrow to provide more details.
In the past month, nervous investors have pushed two of the most ambitious and acquisitive clean-energy companies — SunEdison and NRG Energy Inc. — to trim their plans. Both companies have plowed their moneymaking assets into yieldcos, a new investment vehicle that Wall Street loved a few months ago but has now soured on.
The core business of U.S.-based SunEdison is putting together large, complex solar- and wind-energy projects around the world, with operations as far-flung as India, Brazil, England and Massachusetts. In the past year, those operations became more complicated as the company entered new markets and bought up competitors around the globe.
Last November, the company expanded from solar into wind energy with a $2.4 billion purchase of First Wind. In June it bought Continuum Wind Energy, a wind developer in India, for about $620 million, according to Livemint. That same month, SunEdison snapped up a leading wind and solar developer in Central America. In July, it acquired Vivint Solar, a major U.S rooftop solar developer, for $2.2 billion.
Also this year, SunEdison created two yieldcos, which are essentially holding companies for the company’s completed projects. Since those projects are contracted to last decades, yieldcos were meant to provide investors with a long-term, dependable payback in the unpredictable renewable energy business, while giving their parent companies a cheap supply of capital.
Since 2013, at least 10 yieldcos have been created in the renewable energy sphere and received enthusiastic investment until midsummer, when confidence ebbed.
“The business model for many yieldcos is to issue equity, acquire projects and pay out cash flow. When the equity prices go down, that raises their finance cost, which jeopardizes the business model,” said Travis Miller, director of utilities equity research at Morningstar, a research firm.
This week’s news echoes that of NRG Energy, a company with a portfolio that is both different from and similar to SunEdison’s.
NRG’s principal business is operating one of the country’s largest fleets of traditional power plants running on coal and natural gas. In the past several years, the firm has bought its way into a diverse portfolio of clean energy projects, including large wind and solar farms, a rooftop solar installation business and a network of electric vehicle chargers (EnergyWire, Sept. 9, 2014).
NRG has seen its stock drop from a 52-week high of $32 to $18 per share a few weeks ago and a corresponding slide in its yieldco, called NRG Yield.
Three weeks ago, CEO David Crane announced that the company’s clean energy holdings would be reshuffled into a “GreenCo” that stands apart from the company’s traditional businesses (EnergyWire, Sept. 21). NRG hoped its intentions would increase confidence, but the stock has dropped further, to $14.
At the time of the Vivint acquisition, SunEdison’s CEO, Ahmad Chatila, told Bloomberg that adding a major rooftop solar installer to the portfolio would give the company “unabated growth for 20 years.”
The firm continued to express confidence in its strategy, even as it took on heavy debt from its new purchases and its stock prices sank.SunEdison stock plunged from a high of $31 in mid-July to $9 at market close yesterday. Its two yieldcos, TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, have experienced similar declines.
One analyst suggested the company’s bold, deal-making approach to energy projects may have not prepared it for the level of financial restraint it needed when participating in financial markets with its yieldcos.
John Hempton of Bronte Capital wrote in a blog post last week that Chatila ought to step down in favor of “someone whose job it is to ensure — and be seen to ensure — that bad projects are not funded.”
“Mr Chatila has built an institution for which he is profoundly unsuitable to run,” Hempton wrote.
Also yesterday, the man at SunEdison who will presumably carry out the layoffs — head of human resources Stephen Cerrone — acquired stock options worth $360,000, according to an SEC document.
NRG the outfit that has seen “its stock drop from a 52-week high of $32 to $14” in a few weeks, is among a number of wind power outfits blaming its precarious finances on, of all things, the weather:
SunEdison – also suffering a “precipitous drop” in its share price, from $31 to $9 – is all set to lay off 15% of its 7,300 employees, which, on STT’s maths, translates to almost 1,100 people.
Now, what was all that talk from Samantha Williams and Rob Gramlich about the wind industry creating millions of well-paid, stable jobs that will outlast religion?
And what ever happened to the spruikers’ claims that, investing in wind power was not only groovy and ‘green’, but a solid, one-way bet?
There’s one thing for sure, and that’s that the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers will never be accused of consistency. But, internal inconsistency and blatant hypocrisy is precisely the stuff that wind industry propaganda is made of.
At its base level, this is all about separating fools from their money. As PT Barnum said: “every crowd has a silver lining”. Make sure you’re not part of this crowd.