American Wind Energy Association reports potential COVID-19 impact on industry

Source: By Dave Kovaleski, Energy Insider • Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said the COVID-19 pandemic could put more than 35,000 jobs at risk and jeopardize $43 billion in investments in a new report.

AWEA’s analysis found that the virus has put an estimated 25 GW of wind projects at risk, representing $35 billion in investment. This $43 billion also includes the potential loss of roughly $8 billion to rural communities in state and local tax payments as well as land-lease payments to private landowners. Further, it could result in the loss of over 35,000 jobs in the industry, including wind turbine technicians, construction workers, and factory workers.

The economic losses will hit rural America the hardest as that’s where 99 percent of wind projects are located.

“We’re assessing the many hurdles our members are facing in mitigating the disruptions from COVID-19. Protecting American jobs and economic investment and ensuring the safety of the wind workforce remain our primary objectives,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said. “The COVID-19 pandemic is harming the wind industry’s ability to build the wind farms envisioned by Congressional legislation and putting at risk 35,000 wind energy jobs. To best protect these jobs and the health of our existing workforce, we are asking Congress to immediately extend the schedule and improve the liquidity of our existing tax credits.”

To protect the industry, AWEA is asking Congress for flexibility in allowing existing policies to continue working for the industry through this period of uncertainty. Wind developers have made investments based on the assumption that their projects would qualify for the federal production or investment tax credits.

Congress can eliminate the uncertainty by allowing investment and hiring to move forward by providing two additional years of safe harbor for projects commencing construction after Dec. 31, 2015. This would enable them to receive the tax credits as originally envisioned.

Further, allowing developers to receive direct pay equal to the value of the credits, Congress can address potential decreases in the availability of tax equity and mitigate the economic impact.

“There is a record amount of wind projects under development. Delays caused by COVID-19 will make it difficult for some U.S. wind projects to come online in time to meet financial and economic obligations, putting projects at risk of cancellation,” AWEA Vice President of Research and Analytics John Hensley said. “Decisive government action in the short term can do much to soften the virus’ effects and protect the over 100,000 workers that count on the U.S. wind industry for their livelihood and the consumers that count on wind power for safe, low-cost, zero-carbon electricity.”