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January 02, 2013

U.S. Congress Resuscitates Wind Energy Tax Credits



The U.S. renewable energy got a “second wind” last night, as Congress extended the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credits for community and offshore wind generation projects through the end of 2013.

With the reprieve—which came as part of final passage of a bill to avert the “fiscal cliff”—America’s 75,000 wind energy workers can celebrate the continuation of policies that are predicted to save up to 37,000 jobs and create more over time—and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities nationwide.

The legislation will support further growth of an industry that installed the most new electrical generating capacity in America last year, with factories or wind farms in all 50 states. The version included in the January 1 deal would cover all wind projects that start construction in 2013. Companies that manufacture wind turbines and install them sought that definition to allow for the 18-24 months it takes to develop a new wind farm.

According to the American Wind Energy Association— the Washington, DC-based national trade association of the U.S. wind industry, with 2,000 member companies—the new legislation gives a go-ahead for:

One of the fastest-growing U.S. manufacturing sectors, with at least 472 U.S. factories currently supplying the industry, up from as few as 30 in 2004, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service

An industry that can supply 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Energy

 Roughly 500,000 good quality jobs in the United States, with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry

 Energy-related cost savings to the nation ranging from $100 billion to $250 billion through 2030.

Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee included that version in a "tax extenders" package they assembled in August, which made it into the overall fiscal cliff deal that passed the Senate yesterday morning and the House last night. The bill is expected to be swiftly signed into law by President Barack Obama, who consistently supported the wind energy tax credits throughout the process.

Wind set a new record in 2012 by installing 44 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, leading the electric sector compared with 30 percent for natural gas, and lesser amounts for coal and other sources. 

However, America's wind energy workers have been living under threat of the PTC's expiration for over a year and layoffs had already begun, as companies idled factories because of a lack of orders for 2013. Uncertain federal policies have caused a "boom-bust" cycle in U.S. wind energy development for over a decade.

Half the American jobs in wind energy —37,000 out of 75,000 —and hundreds of U.S. factories in the supply chain would have been at stake had the PTC been allowed to expire, according to a study by Chicago-based Navigant Consulting.

In the closing days of this year's "lame duck" session of Congress, America's wind energy workers have been posting videos to tell their stories of working in the new industry. The AWAE has sent delegations to Capitol Hill repeatedly, invited Members of Congress on tours of wind farms and factories, and delivered hundreds of thousands of letters from constituents.

"On behalf of all the people working in wind energy manufacturing facilities, their families, and all the communities that benefit, we thank President Obama and all the Members of the House and Senate who had the foresight to extend this successful policy, so wind projects can continue to be developed in 2013 and 2014," said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA for the past four years.

"Now we can continue to provide America with more clean, affordable, homegrown energy, and keep growing a new manufacturing sector that's now making nearly 70 percent of our wind turbines in the U.S.A.," said Rob Gramlich, who becomes AWEA's interim CEO on January 2 with Bode's return to private practice as a tax attorney, as previously announced.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman


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