Advocates scrambling to extend subsidies for renewable energy have wind back in their sails after the re-election of President Barack Obama and Congress’ return to Washington.
The renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) gives wind power producers an income tax credit of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour. Without it, wind energy can be too expensive to produce, so most new wind projects have been put on hold until companies know whether the PTC — which is set to expire at the end of the year — will be extended.
“We think we have the bipartisan support to get this done,” said Ellen Carey, spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association. “We need to prevent the loss of 37,000 jobs, and an immediate one-year extension will do that.”
Carey said the industry has already seen layoffs in its manufacturing sector, which had been growing in the U.S. Sixty percent of a wind turbine’s value is now produced in the U.S., up from 25 percent in 2005, according to AWEA.
The industry fared well in last week’s election.
A poll released on Friday showed that energy was an important factor to voters in key swing states including Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia, and played significant a role in their presidential choice.
The poll from the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Advanced Energy Economy Ohio Institute found that voters want to see cleaner energy encouraged in their states. Looking to the future, they’re significantly more supportive of candidates who push for shifting to cleaner energy sources (Iowa: 80 percent, Colorado: 75 percent, Virginia: 72 percent, Ohio: 70 percent). Majorities in all four states support continued government investment in clean energy (Iowa: 77 percent, Virginia: 76 percent, Ohio: 75 percent, Colorado: 72 percent) and requirements for utilities to increase use of renewables.
“It is long past time to end the vilification of an industry that is creating jobs, attracting private investment, and contributing to our economic recovery,” said Dennis McGinn, president and CEO of ACORE, in a statement. “Clean energy is a business, not a political football, and it should be treated as a business.”
In August, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke out against renewing the PTC while he was campaigning in Iowa — a state that has thousands of jobs at stake in the wind industry, and has had bipartisan support for its renewal. The move cost him some support in Iowa, and gave Obama ammunition in his battle for the state, which the president won by about five percentage points.
“There were two very clearly different positions on clean energy and support for clean energy” during the election, said Judy Albert, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a network of business leaders and an affiliate of the Natural Resources Defense Council. And while Albert said she knows voters didn’t go to the polls with clean energy as their top issue, the re-election of Obama shows they were thinking that “clean energy is important to me,” she said.
Albert said she feels more confident that the PTC may be extended now that the election is over. “It may free some Republicans to support the PTC,” she said. Those lawmakers may have felt pressured to follow in line with the party’s presidential candidate during the election.