Bipartisan set of governors urge Congress to pass policy certainty to avoid job loss

Source: By Michelle Froese, Windpower Engineering • Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2015


Republican and Democrat governors pressed U.S. Senate and House leadership yesterday to extend critically important tax incentives used to grow wind energy and keep good-paying manufacturing jobs here at home.

Washington Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee and Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, co-signed a letter insisting federal policymakers “support timely extensions” of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The PTC is the primary federal incentive building more new U.S. wind farms. The ITC is the primary incentive attracting private investment developing the nation’s offshore wind energy resources.

“This bipartisan letter is a reminder that the nation’s governors are on the front line of the nation’s energy future and have a vital role in planning states’ future,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan. “They see first-hand how investing in the wind resources in their states benefit local economies and create opportunities for job growth. To them the decision to extend these incentives is more of an economic one than a political one. We look forward to working with all the governors to maximize the benefits of wind power to their states.”

“These tax credits have made possible the robust growth of the American wind industry and thousands of renewable energy jobs in recent years, with substantial economic returns to our states and the nation,” the governors’ letter reads. “But these gains are at risk today because ongoing federal policy uncertainty continues to hamper the further development of the nation’s wind industry.”

After adding 23,000 jobs in 2014, American wind power continues to ramp up in 2015, gaining momentum over the first quarter of the year with $23 billion worth of new wind projects under development.

But that momentum is increasingly placed at risk as Congress delays action on passing policy capable of creating long-term market certainty. This despite polls consistently showing an overwhelming majority of American voters support growing the nation’s domestic wind resources.

The governors’ letter stressed that multi-year extensions of the renewable energy PTC and ITC would avoid stagnating a wind-supported domestic manufacturing sector that includes thousands of American jobs at 500 facilities across 43 states.

The governors also expressed concern over some of the many other additional public policy benefits from tapping into an abundant, made-in-the-USA energy resource including increasing reliability with a more diverse energy portfolio and significant public health benefits.

The governors’ letter referenced the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) new Wind Vision report showing wind energy could double from where it is today to supply the U.S. with 10% of its electricity needs by 2020, supply 20% by 2030 and become one of the leading sources of electricity in the U.S. by 2050.

By providing 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030, wind energy would support 380,000 well-paying jobs according to Wind Vision. Meeting the 20% scenario would also result in $650 million in annual lease payments to landowners and nearly $1.8 billion a year in tax payments to communities. And by 2050 wind would save an additional $108 billion in public health costs by cutting other air pollutants, including preventing 22,000 premature deaths, and conserve 260 billion gallons of water a year by then, displacing 23 percent of total U.S. power plant water consumption.

Copies of the governors’ letter was also sent to members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, as these committees look to craft energy legislation.

“We expect the bills that emerge from these committees will provide the wind industry with tax certainty and a framework for the nation’s electrical transmission system that will bring renewable energy to all Americans, no matter where they live,” added Kiernan.

Last week the DOE released “Enabling wind power nationwide,” a new report that builds off of Wind Vision and shows how advanced wind turbine technology unlocks wind development opportunities in all 50 states. However without long-term, stable federal policy, the continued innovation and further wind cost reductions needed to continue opening new opportunities for wind energy deployment in every state could be placed in jeopardy.