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The man in charge of spearheading the tax code says he will do everything in his power to extend the Section 1603 program, commonly known as the cash grant program, when Congress reconvenes this week during its lame-duck session.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, with sole jurisdiction over the tax code.

When contacted by NAW shortly after the mid-term elections, Baucus vowed to extend - or apply retroactively - the Section 1603 cash grants, which are widely credited with keeping the wind industry afloat during a time when the tax equity market vanished.

As chairman, Baucus led passage of the program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in addition to extending a three-year extension of the production tax credit, which expires at the end of 2012.

Passing Section 1603 and other policies affecting wind will not be easy. The finance committee has a packed agenda that needs to be addressed before Congress adjourns, including the extension of the middle-class tax cuts and extensions of provisions that expired at the end of 2009, as well as provisions expiring in the end of this year.

Still, Baucus did manage to address the topics important to wind energy.

"[Extending] Section 1603 is a priority, whether it gets extended in December or January and applied retroactively," he says "I'm going to find a place for it."

Baucus cautioned, however, against depending on a specific policy measure to keep the wind industry afloat. He says the wind industry could use the extension of many policy incentives.

"It's the [passage of a renewable electricity standard], plus1603, plus the production tax credit," he says. "You don't put all your eggs in one basket," he says.

At this point, it is unclear how policies such as 1603 will get passed during the lame-duck session. They could go through the finance committee or it could get included as part of a larger bill.

Baucus is also leading the charge to establish a wind energy supply chain in his home state of Montana.

"For years, wind was the scourge of eastern Montana. Now we're harnessing it," he says. "People are excited because it means jobs. Now, they look at the wind turbines as kind of cool."

In September, Baucus hosted wind industry leaders at his Economic Development Summit in Butte, Mont. for a series of discussions on generation, transmission and manufacturing that focused on building the state's wind industry.

In October, Baucus has announced a partnership between the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center and a national clean energy alliance to boost jobs in Montana's wind energy industry.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) awarded a grant to the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation's Clean Energy Manufacturing Center, which will work in partnership with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center in Bozeman to expand Montana's wind energy supply chain.

The project is one of 22 nationwide projects supported by MEP and is aimed at enhancing the productivity, technological performance and global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers in renewable energy industries.

Among Baucus' primary targets is Chicago-based turbine manufacturer Goldwind USA, which is still deciding on the best location to expand beyond its Chicago-based North American headquarters.

The company is considering locating a wind manufacturing facility in the U.S., and Baucus visited the Goldwind facility in China to promote Montana as a suitable location.

Photo courtesy of Bruce MacGregor Photography



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