Iowa delegation joins chorus of calls to extend wind credit

Source: Gabriel Nelson • E&E • Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012

Iowa’s entire congressional delegation is urging Hill leadership to renew a wind energy tax credit that is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, showing growing bipartisan support for a fast-growing industry in the windy country of the Great Plains.

The four Democrats and three Republicans fired off a letter  yesterday saying that Congress should add language extending the production tax credit (PTC) to an extension of the payroll tax cut that Republican leadership is now negotiating with top-ranking Democrats and the White House.

Wind companies have already stopped placing orders with turbine manufacturers for 2013 deliveries because they do not know whether the new investments will pay off, wrote the bipartisan group, led by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. The industry employs more than 5,000 Iowans and generates about 20 percent of the state’s electricity, the letter says.

“Clearly, no energy incentive should be in place forever, but now is not the time to pull the rug out from under the wind energy industry, as it is putting in place the domestic manufacturing, the private investment and the technological advancements that will allow it to prosper without the PTC in the near future,” the lawmakers wrote.

Also signing the letter were Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and the five Iowa congressmen: Democrats Bruce Braley, David Loebsack and Leonard Boswell, as well as Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King.

With a slew of tax provisions set to expire at the end of the year, Congress may take up broad tax reform legislation during a lame-duck session after this fall’s election. Supporters of the clean energy credits, as well as Grassley and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), have called for a short-term reprieve to spare growing alternative energy industries.

The production tax credit offers generators 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for their first 10 years of operations, one reason that wind power — which provides 3.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation — has made up 35 percent of all capacity added over the past four years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Wind companies and suppliers have targeted the payroll tax cut, which expires at the end of this month, as a vehicle to extend the credit. Allies on Capitol Hill have also introduced standalone bills and proposed tacking an extension on to a transportation bill or another piece of legislation.

“As far as I’m concerned, [the payroll tax bill] is our best chance to get it done,” said John Purcell, vice president for wind energy at Leeco Steel, at a panel earlier this week organized by the wind industry trade group (ClimateWire, Feb. 9).

Despite a partisan divide on Capitol Hill over the wisdom of government support for both fossil fuels and clean energy sources, Republican governors such as Sam Brownback of Kansas and Terry Branstad of Iowa have lined up behind the wind credits.

When the Democratic members of the Colorado delegation made a similar call for their renewal this week, two of the state’s Republican congressmen signed the letter and two did not.

Click here to read the letter.