Workers climb a Polaris Industries Inc. wind turbine installed by Renewable Energy SD in Elgin, Minnesota, on Feb. 15, 2012. To qualify for a tax credit, which pays owners of U.S. wind farms 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of power they produce over 10 years, projects must be online and producing power by Jan. 1, 2013. Photographer: Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg
Wind-turbine installations are poised to exceed natural gas-fueled power plants in the U.S. for the first time this year as developers race to complete projects before a renewable energy tax credit expires.
New wind capacity reached 6,519 megawatts by Nov. 30, beating the 6,335 megawatts of gas additions and more than double those of coal, according to data from Ventyx Inc., which is owned by the Swiss power transmission equipment maker ABB Ltd. (ABBN) The company plans to release final tallies in January.
“Wind will very likely beat gas, but it may be close,” said Amy Grace, who leads North American wind industry analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York. “It’s very likely that we get over 8 gigawatts for 2012.”
Congress has yet to renew the production tax credit, which provides incentives for wind farms completed before Dec. 31. Efforts to take advantage of the subsidy trumped interest in gas-fired stations, which are supported by a plunge in prices for the commodity resulting from added production through hydraulic fracturing.
A surge of wind-farm connections in November and December may double the amount of wind capacity added this year to as much as 12 gigawatts, outpacing the additional gas turbines, according to New Energy Finance.
“It shows that wind has firmly planted its foothold as a valuable energy source,” Jacob Susman, chief executive officer of New York wind developer OwnEnergy Inc., said in an interview. “Five years ago we had to drag utilities in kicking and screaming. Now they’ve got teams of experts who understand its value.”
To qualify for the tax credit, which pays wind farm owners 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of power they produce over 10 years, projects must be online and producing power by Jan. 1. Unless Congress extends the incentive, wind turbine installations may fall 88 percent next year to as low as 1.5 gigawatts, New Energy Finance forecasts.
A bill to extend the wind production tax credit was approved by the Senate Finance Committee in August and promoted by Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who sponsored the first wind energy tax credit in 1992.
In an effort to head off opposition to an extension, the American Wind Energy Association this month proposed a six-year phase-out of the credit, ending the subsidy at the start of 2019. The Washington-based industry group says 37,000 jobs will be lost if the credit lapses now.
“The reason we’re having an historic year is because the incentives are in place,” said Elizabeth Salerno, chief economist at AWEA. “There’s more at stake now than there ever has been.”
Some utilities oppose the plan, noting that the strength of installations shows wind can survive without subsidy, according to Joseph Dominguez, a senior vice president of Exelon Corp. (EXC), the largest owner of U.S. nuclear power plants.
“The wind energy industry has matured and is thriving today; the PTC is no longer needed,” Dominguez said in a Dec. 13 statement criticizing the group’s proposal. “Rather than a reasonable phase-out, AWEA is essentially asking for a six-year extension of the now 20-year-old” tax credit.
An increase in gas prices may make wind more competitive. Gas futures have risen almost 15 percent this year, which would be their first annual increase since 2007.
Utilities in 29 states are required to get an increasing amount of their supplies from renewable resources such as wind and solar, whether or not Congress renews the tax credits.
General Electric Co. (GE), the largest supplier of wind turbines to the U.S., has benefited from the surge in orders, said Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt.
“We’ll probably make more money this year than the rest of the industry combined in renewables,” Immelt said on a Dec. 17 conference call with analysts. “We can’t control how the PTC works or doesn’t work, but we have a very strong competitive wind business that basically has done the job.”
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U.S. stocks fell, pulling the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (VIX) down from a two-month high, as deteriorating federal budget negotiations fueled concern that automatic tax increases and spending cuts will be triggered.
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Obama administration officials told leaders of business and financial services groups that budget negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner have deteriorated in the last 24 hours, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Hans Nichols reports on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock." Pimm Fox also speaks. (Source: Bloomberg)
Alcoa Inc. (AA) fell 3 percent as Moody’s Investors Service placed the aluminum producer’s credit rating under review for a downgrade. Consumer-staples, health-care and phone stocks lost more than 1 percent for the worst performance among 10 S&P 500 groups. General Motors Co. (GM) jumped 6.6 percent on plans to purchase 200 million shares from the government. Knight Capital Group Inc. rose 5.4 percent on plans to be bought by Getco LLC.
The S&P 500 lost 0.8 percent to 1,435.81 today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 98.99 points, or 0.7 percent, to 13,251.97. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, known as the VIX, jumped 12 percent to 17.36 for the biggest gain since Oct. 23.
“The underlying situation for U.S. equities isn’t bad, but a lot hinges on the fiscal cliff negotiations,” George Feiger, chief executive officer of Contango Capital Advisors Inc., the San Francisco-based wealth management arm of Zions Bancorporation, said in a phone interview. He manages about $3.6 billion at Contango and Western National Trust Co. “If we get through the fiscal cliff with a reasonable result, then the odds are quite substantial that things are going to be better than many people expect by the middle of 2013,” he said. “All of this can be postponed for a year if they screw up on the negotiations and we slide into a recession.”
The S&P 500 has rallied 14 percent this year and is up 1.4 percent in December after the Federal Reserve extended its unprecedented monetary-stimulus efforts. Stocks retreated today as White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said President Barack Obama would veto a tax and spending proposal presented by House Speaker John Boehner because it would put “too big a burden on the middle class.”
The House may vote tomorrow on Boehner’s “Plan B,” which would raise tax rates on income over $1 million, rather than the $400,000 threshold the president proposed in his latest offer. Boehner said Obama will be responsible for “the largest tax increase in American history” if Democrats don’t accept a measure the House plans to pass tomorrow.
General Electric Co. slipped 3.1 percent, the most in the Dow, to $21.01. AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. telephone company, decreased 1.3 percent to $33.91. Phone stocks lost 1.2 percent as all of the 10 main industry groups in the benchmark gauge for U.S. equities fell. Consumer staples stocks slumped 1 percent, while health-care companies retreated 1.1 percent.
Housing starts in the U.S. fell 3 percent to a 861,000 annual rate from a revised 888,000 annual pace in October, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 872,000.
Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum producer, fell 3 percent to $8.64 for the second-biggest retreat in the Dow. Moody’s placed Alcoa’s Baa3 senior unsecured rating, the lowest investment-grade level, under review for downgrade, the ratings company said in a statement. The review applies to all of Alcoa’s $8.3 billion of debt.
American Express Co. (AXP), the biggest U.S. credit-card issuer by purchases, fell 1.8 percent to $56.79. White House officials have approached Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault about joining President Obama’s second-term administration, possibly as Treasury secretary, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The S&P reached its highest level in two months yesterday amid signs of progress in efforts by Obama and Republicans to reach agreement on a new budget in Washington.
“The stock market has rallied in anticipation that a deal on the fiscal cliff will be reached soon,” Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida, wrote in an e-mail today. His firm oversees $350 billion. “In theory, an agreement could be reached and signed into law after Christmas, but that’s unlikely. There’s simply not enough time to iron out the details.”
GM surged 6.6 percent to $27.18. The automaker will purchase 200 million shares of its stock from the U.S. Treasury as part of the department’s plan to sell its entire holding of GM stock within 15 months. At $27.50 a share, the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the year, provides a 7.9 percent premium over yesterday’s closing price. The Treasury plans to begin selling its remaining shares as soon as January, the company said.
Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. and Sturm Ruger & Co. rebounded after sliding for three days following a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults. Smith & Wesson rose 7.2 percent today after plunging 18 percent in the previous three sessions, its biggest drop in three years. The stock had more than doubled this year before the shooting.
Obama said his administration will come up with “concrete proposals” by next month to help stem gun violence in the U.S. and endorsed restrictions on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. Obama said there is a growing consensus in the country for restricting high-powered weapons and urged Congress to hold votes on such measures early next year.
Oracle Corp. (ORCL) gained 3.7 percent to $34.09. The largest database-software supplier reported fiscal second-quarter sales and profit that topped analysts’ estimates on growing demand for Internet-based software.
Profit excluding some items was 64 cents a share on adjusted revenue of $9.11 billion, the Redwood City, California- based company said yesterday. That compares with analysts’ average projection for profit of 61 cents on sales of $9.02 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Knight Capital (KCG) added 5.4 percent to $3.51. The company, pushed to the brink of bankruptcy in August by a trading error, chose Getco’s proposal yesterday over a competing offer from Virtu Financial LLC, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said yesterday. The high-frequency trader offered $3.75 a share for Knight, one-third of it in stock, for a total price of $1.4 billion, according to a statement from Knight today.
Markel Corp. (MKL) fell 10 percent to $436.24. The seller of property-casualty coverage agreed to buy Alterra Capital Holdings Ltd. (ALTE) for about $3.13 billion in cash and stock to expand in reinsurance. Alterra surged 22 percent to $28.18.
First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the world’s biggest thin-film solar manufacturer, added 3.2 percent to $33.03. Bank of America Corp. analysts raised their share-price target for the company to $35 from $30, saying that rapid declines in crystalline solar module prices are over for the medium term and the company will remain competitive with Chinese rivals.
Herbalife Ltd. (HLF), the maker of namesake nutritional supplements, tumbled 12 percent to $37.34. Activist investor William Ackman’s hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP is betting against the stock, CNBC reported.
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U.S. · Stocks
China Uses Geology to Challenge Japan on Disputed Islands
By Flavia Krause-Jackson - Dec 18, 2012 1:33 PM CT
After making its first aerial incursion into Japanese-controlled airspace near disputed islands, China compounded tensions with Japan by bolstering its territorial claims at the United Nations.
On Dec. 14, two days before elections in Japan, China submitted to the world body an 11-page report citing the continental shelf’s geology to claim ownership of the islands in the East China Sea, which may be surrounded by undersea oil and natural gas fields.
“Physiognomy and geological characteristics show that the continental shelf in the East China Sea is the natural prolongation of China’s land territory,” China said. On that basis, China extends its claim to resource rights beyond the standard 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
Since September, when relations between the two sides took a turn for the worse, China has been depositing maps and coordinates with the UN alongside its more visible provocations by sea and air.
Japan said Dec. 14 that it would respond calmly to a Chinese marine surveillance propeller plane that was spotted by its Coast Guard near the uninhabited islands. While Japan dispatched eight F-15 fighter jets, the plane had already left the area and China responded by calling the flight a normal activity in its own airspace.
The latest actions came as China’s Communist Party had completed its leadership change and power in Japan was about to return to the Liberal Democratic Party, which historically has taken a harder line against China’s antagonism.
China’s timing is intentional given that the new Japanese administration “is likely to be more hawkish than the previous government,” said Richard Gowan, associate director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.
“This is a signal from the Chinese that it’s not going to back down on this issue,” he said.
The row over the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, has hurt trade between Asia’s two biggest economies and has stoked concern of an arms buildup. The crisis was triggered by the Japanese government’s purchase in September of three of the disputed islands from their private Japanese owner. Since then, Chinese ships have been sailing in and out of the waters around the islands.
Incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “will be forced to put more ships and planes around those islands,” Jun Okumura, a senior adviser for the Eurasia Group, said in an interview yesterday on Bloomberg Television. “That is a recipe for possible unintended incidents that could flare up to a major national security challenge.”
China’s moves are being monitored by Western powers at the UN for clues as to how the world’s second-biggest economy will exert its claims and how far it will push the issue. China supplied late-night drama at the annual UN General Assembly gathering in September when it attacked Japan from a deserted UN stage over ownership of the barren island group.
The UN Secretary-General is the designated depositary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and, as such, Ban Ki- moon receives charts and geographical coordinates, his spokesman’s office said.
While presenting evidence at the UN may appear a less aggressive move than an incursion by vessels, Japan’s position has been that this is not a dispute that requires arbitration in a multilateral setting given that it’s inherently Japanese territory.
“Japan would consider this an unacceptable approach, so the move by the Chinese may be designed to look reasonable but it is more disruptive than it seems,” said Gowan, who specializes in crisis diplomacy at the UN.
The Japanese mission to UN didn’t respond to queries on China’s action.
Chinese vessels have entered Japanese-controlled waters around the islands 17 times since Sept. 11 and have been warned off by the Coast Guard. Under Japanese law, incursions by aircraft require a response by the military, raising further potential risks.
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