On Wednesday, the wind industry again found itself defending the production tax credit (PTC) before members of Congress. The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements held a hearing and invited energy experts to examine whether the incentive should be extended for the sector. As expected, opinions varied.
Rob Gramlich, the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) senior vice president of public policy, called the PTC a ‘wise investment’ and laid out the statistics for legislators.
"Over the years, the PTC has been a tremendous success," he said. "With the credit in place, the U.S. wind industry was the No. 1 source of new generation capacity last year. Wind turbines are now generally made domestically by approximately 550 manufacturing facilities in all regions of the country.
"Wind projects in the U.S. have brought economic growth to rural communities; roughly $400 million in annual property taxes or similar payments to communities; and annual lease payments to farmers and ranchers of around $120,000 per turbine over its lifetime," he continued.
Gramlich also said that although the PTC may be expected to cost less than $2 billion this year, the tax credit "drives over $20 billion of private investment annually and brings electricity to 15 million American homes. Without the PTC, these economic benefits and this private investment in the U.S. would not have occurred."
He noted how policy uncertainty has had a huge effect on the U.S. wind sector and called for an extension of the key incentive.
"The impending expiration of the PTC before it was extended in January had a devastating impact on the industry," he said. "Investment was put on hold and factories halted production and project installations came to a standstill. Only 1.6 MW were installed in the first half of this year, which is the capacity of a single turbine."
However, some Republicans at the hearing argued that the wind industry can – and should – do without the incentive. And that included Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., chairman of the subcommittee.
According to a report in The Hill, Lankford said, "We keep hearing that "we're almost there' or "just a little bit longer.' But the facts state that wind power has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, and there's this point of saying, 'When does wind take off on its own?'’
Some Democrats said the attack on wind subsidies was unfair. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., noted the billions of dollars that oil companies receive in subsidies each year and how the fossil fuel industry has long been mature and profitable.
"If you want to get rid of the PTC, then let's get rid of all the subsidies for all the various forms of energy," Speier said. "We need to give as much support to clean renewable energy sources as we have provided and continue to provide for the fossil fuel industry."