Securing a deal in the near term helps keep the wind industry afloat, Baucus tells NAW. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and a study by Navigant Consulting, more than 37,000 jobs will be lost if the PTC is allowed to expire. In fact, thousands of wind energy jobs have already been lost.
‘There is no question that uncertainty over the PTC makes it difficult for the wind industry to plan and build new projects, and that means every day we fail to act is another day American jobs are on hold,’ Baucus says. ‘That is why I am fighting so hard to make sure the PTC is extended. Plain and simple: Investing in wind power is investing in good-paying American jobs – I've seen it firsthand in Montana.’
In August, the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, passed the Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012, a $205 billion tax-extenders package that includes a one-year extension of both the wind energy PTC and the investment tax credit.
‘I understand that it takes time to plan and develop a wind farm," he says, "and that's why I specifically designed our extension so that wind developers just need to start construction by the end of 2013 to qualify for the credit. That's important, because it means companies then have up to two years to take advantage of the credit – through the end of 2014 and, in some cases, potentially even spilling partially into 2015.’
Spearheading a charge to secure an important tax incentive for wind energy is familiar territory for Baucus. Two years ago, he successfully extended the popular Section 1603 cash-grant program.
However, given Congress' fractured nature, it is unclear if even Baucus can garner enough support needed to extend the PTC.
‘Passing the PTC extension through the [Senate] Finance Committee wasn't an easy battle, and passing it through the full Congress will be even tougher,’ he says. ‘But it's a battle worth fighting, because jobs are on the line. I am going to do everything I can to get an extension passed this year.’
While Beltway speculation runs rampant about the prospects for an extension – and if such an extension includes a phase out – Montana's senior senator is concerned about the impact on the wind industry, particularly if the PTC expires without a gradual phase-down.
According to a spokesperson for Baucus, the senator has not officially called for a phase-out. However, there is a possibility that some legislators could propose a phase-out as part of a compromise.
‘If that happens, [Baucus] will take a look and evaluate whether it is best for Montana and the country,’ the spokesperson says.
If there's a silver lining, it is that Baucus is a wind industry advocate who understands that an extension means wind power development – and jobs – for Montana.
In fact, last month, he was on hand to dedicate the Musselshell Wind Farm, located in Montana's Golden Valley and Wheatland counties. The project, which features two 10 MW wind farms, is owned by Goldwind USA, which purchased the project from Volkswind USA last year.
When talking about the project, Baucus sounds like an unabashed economic development official.
‘Attracting a top-tier-name manufacturer such as Goldwind to Montana not only helps create jobs, but also calls more attention to the fact that Montana is an excellent place for wind development,’ he says.
Baucus urges wind industry professionals to contact their congressional representatives to help them understand how wind energy creates jobs in their communities.
‘I understand how critical the PTC is because I have seen, firsthand, the jobs it has helped create in Montana, so I know how important it is that folks in the wind industry speak out," he says. "That will go a long way toward helping us get this done.’