Blown Away: Tracking stimulus grants for renewable energy

Previous report: Wind firms join lobbying frenzy

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 

money washington Coinciding with wind energy emergence as a priority in the federal government's energy plan, the industry’s lobbying efforts suddenly became more muscular.

The American Wind Energy Association , whose membership includes most of the dominant foreign-owned companies, spent $728,883 in the first half of 2008. In the first half of 2009, it spent $3 million. Its second-quarter 2009 total of $1.83 million was just a few thousand dollars short of energy lobbying king, the American Petroleum Institute ($1.86 million).

In the third quarter of 2009, a period sandwiched between the passage of a House climate and energy bill and the beginning of the Senate debate, the association’s lobbying has dropped to just $808,997.

By all accounts, the American subsidiaries of foreign firms are active in the association and its leadership . Don Furman, Iberdrola Renewables’ senior vice-president for development, transmission and policy, currently holds the association’s presidency. Roby Roberts, senior vice president for external relations for the American subsidiary of Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas , chairs the association’s policy committee.

Roberts told the Workshop the association is proud of its lobbying efforts.

“We’re proud that our industry is engaging more and understands that we’ve got to participate in the political process,” he said. “We now have gained critical mass (as an industry) so we are acting like a relevant participant in the generation mix instead of a boutique hobby craft.”

Big conglomerates join the party

Several subsidiaries of foreign wind companies (including Iberdrola, Vestas and Suzlon) lobbied on the stimulus bill or subsequent pieces of legislation, but the promise of public subsidies for wind production has also drawn the interest of some of the world’s largest corporations.

BP America Inc., the American subsidiary of the British energy giant , for example, reported $3.6 million in spending on first-quarter lobbying. On its activity report it listed “legislation affecting energy industry tax incentives” as a priority. Included in that overall sum, the company paid Bluewater Strategies $20,000 to lobby on “renewable energy and fuels.” Bluewater is headed by a former Capitol Hill energy staff member and chairman of President George W. Bush’s energy policy committee.

Siemens AG , the German industrial giant that has its fingers in every pie from phones to health care, has installed 2.4 gigawatts worth of turbines in the U.S. since 2006. Its American subsidiary, the Siemens Corporation ,  spent $1.3 million lobbying Congress in the first quarter of this year, listing “lobby for extension of wind energy tax credits” and a half-dozen wind-related pieces of legislation as priorities.

French conglomerate Alstom , best known for building nuclear power plants and mass transportation systems, purchased Spanish turbine maker Ecotecnia in 2007, but has yet to sell a turbine in the United States. But lobbying disclosure forms show the company’s American susbsidiary took a serious interest in seeing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act become law.

In the first quarter, Alstom, Inc., reported spending $570,000 lobbying on a range of issues that went beyond its traditional energy and transportation interests to include renewable energy and the stimulus bill. Of the total spent, $80,000 was paid to lobbying firm Wexler & Walker , which reported lobbying on clean energy, electricity and climate change.

Robert Bosch GmBH , a German conglomerate with 270,000 employees, best known in the U.S. for producing auto parts and power tools, also lobbied for wind energy incentives while Congress debated the stimulus bill. In the first quarter of 2009, the German giant’s American subsidiary reports spending $140,000 – to support their all-terrain vehicle division and, “inclusion of solar, wind, building efficiency incentives” in the stimulus bill.