Less than a month after President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at rolling back environmental regulations and supporting the coal industry, the country’s top buyer of wind-generated electricity showed no signs of changing its midterm strategy.
“We like to say that most of our customers … want a cleaner energy product; all of them want an affordable, reliable product. It’s not inconsistent with what we’re doing,” Xcel Energy Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Ben Fowke said. “[Renewables], and particularly here with wind, are economically compelling.”
Xcel Energy, whose utilities count millions of customers in eight states stretching from the upper Midwest to Texas, gets 19% of its energy from wind. Leveraging expiring federal tax credits, the company plans to boost wind’s share to 35% by 2021, with the resulting fuel savings expected to more than offset capital costs, Fowke said on a February earnings call.
On April 19, Fowke said, “The fuel of tomorrow is on sale today.” The production tax credit is set to expire in 2020, which will make wind energy more expensive, and “that’s why we’re acting today, to lock these prices in.” he said at a press conference organized by the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.
“You have a unique opportunity to bring wind on that is cheaper as an energy source than fossil alternatives, both natural gas and coal.”
Installations last year represented around $14 billion in infrastructure investments, mostly in rural parts of the country, and industry employment grew by 16.5% to 102,500, with about 4,000 jobs created in manufacturing.
“[It’s] really U.S. manufacturing which we’re bringing back that is building America’s industrial base again,” said Chris Brown, president of the U.S. and Canadian sales and service division at Vestas Wind Systems A/S and the chairman of AWEA’s board of directors.