by Will Greene
Clean energy advocates have reason to celebrate tonight, as the fiscal cliff agreement now headed to the White House for President Obama’s signature includes extension of the wind production and investment tax credit.
Renewing the tax credits has been the top priority of wind energy-backers for months. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a statement tonight indicating the importance of this development for the emerging industry.
“America's 75,000 workers in wind energy are celebrating tonight over the continuation of policies expected to save up to 37,000 jobs and create far more over time, and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country. The extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), and Investment Tax Credits for community and offshore projects, will allow continued growth of the energy source that installed the most new electrical generating capacity in America last year, with factories or wind farms in all 50 states.”
AWEA estimated that half of the 75,000 American jobs in wind energy would have been “at stake” had the production tax credit been allowed to expire. The lobby group had been pushing for a four year extension of the credits, which are estimated to cost taxpayers about $1 billion annually. A House bill granting a four year extension had garnered 119 bi-partisan cosponsers (no AZ Reps signed up to cosponser the legislation).
The extension passed tonight will unfortunately only cover projects that begin construction in 2013, leaving the industry vulnerable again next year. However in a wise move by lawmakers, projects completed in 2014 can still qualify for the credits as long as construction begins this year. Previous incentives had required wind projects, which usually take 18-24 months to develop, to be completed by years end forcing developers to cut corners and rush construction.
While the broader fiscal cliff agreement appears to be another instance of “kicking the can down the road”, with a decision on cuts to the bloated Pentagon delayed for two months, clean energy advocates can sleep easy knowing the wind industry will continue its dramatic growth – at least through 2013.