Senate to Vote on Renewables as Early as Today [update]
[UPDATE 1: The Consumer First Energy Act which would impose a ‘windfall profits tax’ on big oil companies, and the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act both failed to move on. The second of those two contained a one year extension of the Production Tax Credit. The votes were largely along party lines. Kate Shepard at Grist provides a good review of the two bills in this report.]
The PTC has been the single biggest policy driver of renewable energy development in the U.S., and the short one and two year extensions (as well as the absence of those extensions) have produced a ‘feast-or-famine‘ cycle of renewable energy growth in the United States, where all new development is virtually frozen in place, awaiting a tax incentive. As it currently stands, the PTC will expire at the end of 2008.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), studies show that 116,000 jobs and more than $19 billion in clean energy investment are at risk from a failure to extend the PTC and other renewable energy tax credits.
Thus far, the biggest hangup for extending the renewable energy tax credits has been the question of funding. Ironically, the Democrats have become the party of fiscal responsibility in Congress, and do not want to pass the bill without a way to pay for it.
Last week at WINDPOWER 2008, I had the opportunity to sit down with Greg Wetstone, Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs for AWEA, and Tom Gray, the Deputy Executive Director. The pair told me that the tax credit issue was really one of fiscal ideology. And that unfortunately, many in Congress had been using the renewable energy tax credits as a “political football.”
Both Gray and Wetstone expressed concern that a lapse in the PTC would have a detrimental effect on the installation of new wind energy projects, especially considering wind developers are currently in the planning stages for projects that would not go online until 2009 or 2010. According to Wetstone:
“This really has to happen by the August recess…If it drags out beyond that and gets done in some kind of lame duck [action] – or doesn’t get done – I think it’s a major problem for the industry, and a major embarrassment for the Congress.”
Considering the popular support for policies that promote renewable energy development, it seems odd that Congress continues to drag their collective feet on passing the PTC. The results of a recent poll show that a vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy. Ninety-one percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Democrats and 98 percent of Independents agree that developing solar power is vital to the U.S.
The tenuous position of the PTC was a hot topic at last week’s WINDPOWER 2008 in Houston. At the event, virtually all of the industry leaders, advocates, and public officials I spoke with strongly voiced support for passage of the tax credits. And nearly all of them were maintained that we need the stability of a long term renewable energy policy, as opposed to the one and two year extensions the Congress has favored more recently.
If you want to continue to see sustained growth in renewable energy in this country, I suggest you contact your Senator to urge passage of the PTC today!