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As wind developers and suppliers convene next month in Chicago for the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2013 Conference & Exhibition, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves. After all, developers are coming off a year that broke records for installed capacity and saw the extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind.

Despite the victories, something seems off. Perhaps it is because the U.S. Department of the Treasury has yet to clarify the PTC’s new “begin construction” rules. While developers sit idle, the clock continues to run. Remarkably, a quarter of the year has already been lost.

Or maybe my hesitancy stems from the realization that there are real challenges just over the horizon. For example, what’s the best way to counter mounting efforts to water-down and weaken state renewable portfolio standards? Or what is the strategy involved to legislatively tweak master limited partnerships and real estate investment trusts to make these options available to wind energy?

When (not if) Congress addresses tax reform, incentives relied on by developers and suppliers could end up looking very different. In these trying times, the wind industry needs answers. It needs leadership. Moreover, it needs a leader.

As of press time, the AWEA board of directors has yet to fill the void created by Denise Bode’s Dec. 14 resignation. Following her resignation, AWEA named Rob Gramlich, its former policy director, interim CEO while it began the search for a new CEO. Nearly four months later, there have been no announcements or updates from AWEA.

My concern is not about Gramlich’s vision or his ability to lead. Rather, it is one of perception. If AWEA’s board of directors maintains that Gramlich is best suited for the job, then the board of directors should immediately remove his interim tag. Doing so would make lining up in support of him much easier.

Right now, the U.S. wind industry needs to hear the plan for the path forward, or at least an acknowledgement of the problems that lie ahead. Acknowledging the challenges in frank and honest discussion at WINDPOWER would be a good starting point.

As wind developers and suppliers head to Chicago, AWEA will have the perfect opportunity to introduce the industry to its new leader. What better setting than WINDPOWER to communicate its vision? After all, they will have a captive audience. w

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