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Renewable Energy Pledge, Industry Association Launched

The City of Austin, Texas, the Bank of Georgetown, Stevens Pass ski resort, Diamond Packaging, Southern Oregon University and marketer-printer Sandy Alexander are the first organizations to sign up to the 5 Year Renewable Energy Pledge run by the Renewable Energy Markets Association.

The program, announced yesterday, aims to recognizes organizations that make a long-term commitment to voluntarily purchase renewable energy, with the goal of tripling U.S. voluntary purchases of renewable energy by 2015. The purchases must be made in adherence with the Green-e National Energy Standard or equivalent guidelines, and all renewable energy purchased must be above and beyond any state or federal mandates, include state renewable portfolio standards.

Austin is the largest municipal in the government to go 100 percent renewable and last month ranked seventh on the EPA’s Green Power Partnership ranking of the biggest renewable energy users. The EPA has expressed support for the REMA pledge.

REMA said that long-standing commitments of many organizations to the purchase of renewable energy have helped build capacity over the past decade, to a point where consumers voluntarily bought over 30 million MWh in 2009. A number of organizations began their commitments ten years and ago and many more have been purchasing renewable energy for the last five years, the association said.

Meanwhile, national and regional business leaders have announced the formation of Advanced Energy Economy, a network of business groups promoting American companies as global suppliers of innovative energy technologies.

The AEE network starts out with chapters representing more than 700 companies in nine states – Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont – with that number expected to more than double by early next year. The network has incorporated the Clean Economy Network, a non-partisan organization focused on developing a new economy based on technology and innovation.

AEE says that its work will encompass not only renewables, but nuclear energy, electric and plug-in hybrid cars, lightweight composites for airplane bodies, natural gas-fueled trucks, high-performance buildings and efficient industrial processes. Its board includes former secretary of state George P. Shultz, EnerNOC co-founder Tim Healy, former Colorado governor William Ritter, Rhumb Line Energy managing director Phil Giudice and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

But on Bloomberg yesterday, Trina Solar CEO Jifan Gao said that about two-thirds of solar equipment makers are likely to disappear between now and 2015, as prices continue to drop. He said that by 2020, the industry will have only five or so companies in each of its three major manufacturing segments: panels, raw polysilicon, and ingots and wafers.

China-based Trina is the fifth-largest solar panel supplier in the world.

Three U.S. solar companies have gone bankrupt this year. Others, including leading players SunPower and First Solar, have made deep cuts to their sales forecasts.

Last month, seven solar panel makers filed a complaint with the Commerce Department, asking the government to impose duties on cheaper Chinese imports. The manufacturers, which included the U.S. arm of German company SolarWorld, accused Chinese manufacturers of using billions of dollars’ worth of subsidies to bolster their position in the American market. They also said their Chinese peers are selling panels here for less than their total manufacturing and shipping cost.

A few days ago, China’s biggest solar power plant developer reacted by put $500 million of planned U.S. projects on hold, Reuters reported. CECEP Solar Energy Technology said that if the trade complaint succeeds in raising the price of Chinese panels, the arrays in California, New Jersey and Texas would become unfeasible.

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