by Will Greene
Arizona’s nine new members of the House of Representatives should have a quick opportunity to prove their clean energy worthiness as they voice support or disapproval for a crucial wind energy incentive called the ‘wind production tax credit.’
America is on the verge of an explosion in clean energy growth that will yield tremendous economic and environmental benefits. Dramatic efficiency gains and ensuing investment in wind energy is responsible for most of the progress made up to this point. States like Iowa, South Dakota, and Maine already receive 20% of their net electricity from wind, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Wind energy is cost competitive in windy Midwestern and Atlantic seaboard areas (as is solar in Arizona), however utilities remain uncomfortable with the intermittent nature of the electricity as windy hours often occur in low-demand periods at night.
Chicago based utility-behemoth Exelon Corporation commissioned a study blasting the production tax credit, stating its renewal and the subsequent success of wind energy would “undermine the reliability of the grid." Exelon is the same utility that intervened in Arizona’s recent Corporation Commission election, spending $10,000 to defeat the ‘Solar Team’ candidates.
It is no surprise to see a utility giant like Exelon push back as clean energy policy places them out of their comfort zone. The utilities that will thrive in the 21st century will be those that embrace clean energy and find innovative ways to deliver clean electrons to customers while keeping the grid stable. Exelon, and nearly every utility in the country including ours in Arizona, have not yet reached such an enlightened state of mind.
With utilities dragging their feet, incentives like the production tax credit are essential in the short term.
Failure to renew the incentive would mean wind, an emerging industry, would be placed at an unfair disadvantage pitted against traditional fossil generation that continues to enjoy government support that has been served on a silver platter for more than a century. It would also mean the loss of 37,000 jobs, slamming communities across the country. This economic impact has led many conservative leaders and organizations, such as the ultra-conservative Steve King of Iowa and the fossil-funded US Chamber of Commerce to argue for the inclusion of a multi-year wind production tax credit extension in any tax overhaul policy.
This blogger will be following Arizona’s new congressional delegation closely as they voice support, stay silent, or oppose this crucial policy.