US wind energy leaders meet to try and extend wind production tax credit

Two US cabinet secretaries have met with leaders of the US wind manufacturing, construction and development sectors at the White House recently to discuss extending the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit before Congress goes into recess for the summer.

Extending the tax credit could help to preserve 75,000 US jobs and a bipartisan coalition has been raising the issue since last year as an urgent call for action by Congress. The extension is however entered on a ‘to-do’ list with a requirement to act on it before August. As well as the jobs, the extension is important for the future of the US wind manufacturing sector and to keep US$15 billion per year in private investment.

The US wind industry is currently preparing for the world’s largest annual wind event – the Windpower 2012 Conference and Exposition in Atlanta, June 3-6. Meanwhile President Obama will be touring a wind blade factory in Newton, Iowa, which created over 700 jobs following the closure of a local factory.

The wind PTC has won broad support across Congress this year including 21 House Republican co-sponsors and a number of Republican senators. The meeting was attended by energy adviser Heather Zichal, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese.

Over the past five years, US wind power has become one of the largest providers of new American electric generation with 35% capacity, right behind natural gas. 500 new American manufacturing facilities employing 30,000 workers in the wind energy supply chain from coast to coast are now a vital part of the US economy, and orders for 2013 rely on the tax credit’s extension.

No extension means that the tax credit expires at the end of 2012 and given that wind projects usually have an 18 to 24 month development cycle, effectively the tax credit is already starting to expire. The resulting uncertainty means that jobs are already beginning to be shed with 10,000 layoffs expected by the end of the year. That will increase to 37,000 after a full year, according to predictions by Navigant Consulting.

However, the consultancy has also predicted that with the right policies in place, the US wind power sector could grow with the provision of 100,000 jobs by 2016. The US Department of Energy also predicted in 2007 that jobs in wind could expand to 500,000 by 2030.