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US governors push Trump to support pro-renewables policies

A group representing 20 US state governors, including eight Republicans, has published a letter to the White House asking President Donald Trump to support a continued renewables build-out through transmission development, streamlined permitting, long-sighted offshore wind policy, and other measures.

In the letter, the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition – led by Rhode Island Democrat Gina Raimondo and Kansas Republican Sam Brownback – makes the increasingly mainstream argument that wind and solar are bringing economic development and jobs to struggling rural parts of the country, noting that the sectors align closely with many of Trump's priorities, including infrastructure investment.

Several of the governors’ requests would not seem too much of a stretch for Trump, despite the White House’s “America First Energy Plan” not including a single reference to renewables, by far the fastest growing part of the US electricity sector.

They ask that any national infrastructure legislation introduced in Congress provide “significant funding” for grid modernisation, including helping pave the way for the development of new transmission lines to better integrate renewables.

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Trump made infrastructure investment a key plank of his campaign, and last month it was revealed that Trump’s transition team compiled a list of “shovel-ready” projects based on input from governors following November’s election – a list that includes several major renewables-related projects.

The governors suggest the White House creates a new state-federal task force – perhaps in conjunction with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Laboratories – to examine options to “modernize and streamline” the regulatory processes that govern transmission development.

The governors also ask Trump to help streamline the permitting processes for solar and wind projects.

While Trump’s comments to date on the permitting issue have largely focused on fossil fuels, many in the renewables industry are hopeful that secure permits will become easier for them too under the Trump administration. Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee to head the Energy Department, oversaw a massive wind boom during his years as governor of Texas. 

The governors also make several requests that would appear to be less in-line with Trump’s thinking, including pushing for comprehensive long-term offshore wind development legislation and boosting federal funding for wind and solar research.

While offshore wind is eligible for the renewables tax credits that were extended in 2015, few if any projects – aside from the operating Block Island – stand to benefit from the credits before they expire again.

In recent years various senators have authored pieces of legislation that would either extend the 30% investment tax credit for offshore wind through 2025 or allow it to remain in place for the first 3GW of capacity that gets built, regardless of the timeline.

“Our hope is that your Administration and Congress will support a long-term extension of a 30% investment tax credit for offshore wind,” the governors write.

Among the Republicans on the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition are those representing the states of Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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