Congratulations on obtaining a one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC). Full credit goes to Denise Bode, Rob Gramlich and the entire American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) staff for cementing the tax credit's ‘begin construction’ language into the PTC version included in the Senate bill passed last August. As Gramlich correctly predicted, attaching the PTC to a larger legislative vehicle helped to ensure its passage.
However, with the PTC's one-year extension secured comes an equally critical task: choosing Bode's successor. (Bode announced her resignation last December.) The next leader of the wind industry's top trade association will immediately face a range of issues that will affect the direction of the industry for the next 20 years.
Depending on timing, the next CEO's first task will likely be to push the Internal Revenue Service to decipher what it means for a wind project to begin construction in order to qualify for the PTC or the ITC. Then, he or she will need to help Congress determine the duration of the PTC phase-out, fight for the passage of the MLP Parity Act – a bill designed to make master limited partnerships applicable to renewables – and ensure that wind energy is well represented in a comprehensive national energy plan.
Faced with this daunting laundry list of tasks, the next leader of AWEA should be a decisive and pragmatic visionary who can get members of Congress and the administration to coalesce around a long-term plan for the wind industry that benefits all AWEA members, not solely its deep-pocketed members.
The candidate will need to re-energize AWEA's base of members, some of whom claim that the association has grown too large and self-obsessed.
Lastly, some members have suggested that the organization has often turned a blind eye to matters outside the Beltway. While the association's group of regional partners do the yeoman's work of providing local advocacy in wind states, AWEA needs to devote more resources on the ground in key battleground states.
AWEA is correct to suggest that the industry is better served by moving away from its reliance on the PTC – which makes the hiring of its next leader that much more important.
At such a critical point in the industry's maturation, the AWEA board of directors needs to put its collective heads together and make an inspired choice.
Time is of the essence. Simply put, the wind industry cannot afford to get this one wrong. The industry's future depends on it.
Mark Del Franco
Editor, North American Windpower