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During last-minute preparations at the recently concluded WINDPOWER 2013 Conference and Exhibition, an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) staffer was dutifully alerting panelists to some last-minute housekeeping details. Standing within earshot, I clearly overheard something that conference organizers probably wished not be made public.

“Let’s be sure to reign in those MLP guys,” noted the staffer – the implication being that conference organizers were intent to ensure that panelists, above all else, stayed on message.

Like a well-orchestrated school play, public performances run more smoothly when everyone knows their lines, and AWEA was not about to confuse the message, especially at its marquee event.

In an instant, the gaffe gave credence to what some in the wind industry are already noting privately: The message surrounding the production tax credit (PTC), above all else, is AWEA’s top legislative priority.

Of course, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that MLP is short for master limited partnerships, a financing vehicle that is currently unavailable to the industry. In April, Sen. Chris Coons, D- Del., reintroduced the MLP Parity Act.

According to Coons, the MLP Parity Act is a straightforward modification of the federal tax code that could unleash significant private capital by helping additional energy generation and renewable fuels companies to form master limited partnerships, which combine the funding advantages of corporations and the tax advantages of partnerships. The legislation aims to level the playing field with other types of generation sources, such as oil and gas – fossil fuel sources that already enjoy access to the incentive and have for decades. At least, that is the belief espoused by the aforementioned “MLP guys.”

When asked to clarify, Peter Kelley, AWEA’s spokesman, explained that MLPs can “complement” the PTC, not replace it.

“While we wait for a legislative vehicle for the PTC extension, AWEA supports the MLP Parity Act to allow everyday Americans to invest in renewable energy, as they are able to do with other energy sources,” he says. “Extending the PTC is the industry’s top priority, given its effectiveness in driving renewable energy development in the U.S. MLPs can complement the PTC as they do for tax incentives for other energy sources.”

Shouldn’t AWEA be advocating for all policy vehicles to level the playing field for wind energy, not merely the ones whose chorus is well understood? w

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