4 governors sign letter urging renewal of wind production tax credit

Source: Elizabeth Harball and Daniel Cusick, E&E reporters • Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Touting wind energy as an important economic boon in their states, a bipartisan group of governors yesterday asked congressional leaders to renew the production tax credit (PTC) for the renewable energy technology.The PTC, which provides a 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy to wind farms that began service or started meaningful development by the end of 2013, expired in December. But the wind industry and state leaders are lobbying to revive the credit program, arguing in a letter to Congress that the industry still depends on the PTC for survival.”If gas prices weren’t so cheap, I’d say that wind might be able to survive without the production tax credit, but I think it’s important that we not lose this industry even as we’re on the brink of it being able to stand alone without any support,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) said on a call with reporters yesterday organized by the American Wind Energy Association.

In addition to Daugaard, the letter was signed by three other members of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition: Govs. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington, John Kitzhaber (D) of Oregon and Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa. Those four states account for 14 percent of total U.S. wind energy capacity, the letter notes.

It was written ahead of a Senate Finance Committee markup that Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) scheduled for tomorrow, during which a reinstatement of the PTC may have been considered (E&E Daily, March 27). However, a committee aide yesterday said the markup has been delayed, and even if the PTC is granted an extension by the Senate, it is widely believed it will face stiff opposition in the Republican-led House (Greenwire, March 31).

‘Boom and bust cycle’

According to AWEA, the U.S. wind industry now employs about 80,000 workers and supports 559 manufacturing facilities around the nation.

The governors’ letter states: “While the PTC as currently structured will apply to some wind development beyond this year, the impact of its impending expiration will soon again result in the loss of thousands of jobs as evidenced by plummeting orders for new wind turbines and their component parts in the 39 states that contribute to the wind-equipment supply chain.”

In South Dakota, Daugaard said, there is 80 megawatts of wind energy under construction and 188 MW in the preconstruction phase. Almost 40 businesses in his state are involved in wind manufacturing and development, he added, and those businesses are often forced to lay off workers when the PTC lapses.

“You see lots of projects being planned when the production tax credit is available and as it reaches the end of its life, and the expiration date nears, then those orders just fall off a cliff,” Daugaard said. “You have a boom and bust cycle, which is not good for any industry.”

Margaret Hoffman, energy policy adviser for Kitzhaber, also highlighted the importance of wind energy to her state’s economy, noting that the industry has invested $9 billion in Oregon each year since 2007.

“In fact, it is one of the largest investments we have seen in rural Oregon since the timber industry was strong in the 1980s,” she said.

Like Daugaard, Hoffman noted that wind energy development in her state is highly dependent on the PTC: “In those instances when it has not been renewed, renewable production has been nearly completely wiped out in the state of Oregon,” she said.