The Oklahoma House of Representatives' Appropriations & Budget Committee's approval of S.B.498 may allow the wind industry and legislative leaders to alleviate a portion of the legislature's anxiety over the state budget deficit while allowing Oklahoma to compete for future wind development projects, according to Jeff Clark, executive director of The Wind Coalition, an advocacy group representing Oklahoma wind developers.
‘The Wind Coalition and its members have worked diligently with legislative leaders throughout the session to allow Oklahoma wind development projects, currently in production or put into production on or before Dec. 31, 2016, to complete their five-year ad valorem exemption under current law,’ Clark says.
‘The wind industry is very cognizant of the budget deficit, and we have willingly conceded the full phaseout of the five-year exemption beyond Dec. 31, 2016, for future projects.’
Because of this major concession, legislative leaders have indicated they will keep Oklahoma's zero-emission tax creditÂ – or more commonly referred to as the state's production tax credit – intact until its full phase out in 2020, allowing Oklahoma to retain a certain degree of competitiveness with neighboring wind-producing states.
The bill how heads to the House floor. If passed by the House, S.B.498 would go the Senate, which can accept or reject the bill. With Senate approval, the bill would go to Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla. A rejection in the Senate means the bill would land in a conference committee.
‘This is an extremely important component of our discussions as it conveys the message that Oklahoma does not close its door on private business and that it is a reliable and trustworthy business partner,’ Clark adds.
Since 2003, the wind industry has become a major component of Oklahoma's economic development portfolio with over $6 billion invested. With a minimum 20-year lifespan, wind industry-created jobs have resulted in over $340 million in wages. County governments and school districts receive over $40 million annually in sales and property tax revenue, and rural landowners receive $30 million each year in royalty payments. In addition, wind energy produces nearly 20% of Oklahoma's electricity and provides commercial and residential customers with lower utility bills and long-term price stability.
Three Oklahoma utilities – Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Grand River Dam Authority and Public Service Oklahoma – use wind energy with estimated collective savings of over $1.75 billion. Wind energy also consumes no water, which, in drought-stricken Oklahoma, equates to more than 2.3 billion gallons saved per year.