U.S. Senate Majority Leader U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (2nd L) speaks as (L-R) U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senate Majority Whip U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) listen during a news conference July 26, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Senator Harry Reid earlier this week gave the wind industry hope of a revival of a critical subsidy before the end of the year.
The Production Tax Credit is set to expire at the end of this year despite intense Congressional efforts and presidential support to extend the 2.2c per kwh subsidy.
Last week, the Senate Finance Committee passed a PTC extension as part of a $205 billion tax extenders package. But it is likely to face fierce opposition from Congressional Republicans and their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who last week confirmed that he would allow the PTC to expire.
At the National Clean Energy Conference in Las Vegas, Senator Reid said: “We’re going to get it done before the end of the year. What the finance committee did was a bipartisan effort and we may even get this done before the election. But we will get it done before the end of the year, I’m very confident.”
Senator Reid said he had detected an easing in the conflict between the Republicans and Democrats on tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
“We’ve had a couple of Republicans break away,” he said. “They have said that they will vote with us and I think there’s a new world approaching. There’s no reason that these companies that have more money than any industry in the history of the world in the last 10 years why they should still be taking subsidies from American taxpayers.”
DMI Industries this week became the most recent casualty of uncertainty over the PTC, said Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association.
If you take away the PTC, it’s like giving me three wheels to drive a NASCAR race when everyone else gets four wheels.” – Garland, Pattern Energy
The wind tower manufacturer cited the PTC expiration as it announced closures in West Fargo, North Dakota in October and Tulsa, Oklahoma, in November with the loss of 384 jobs.
Despite the policy headwinds, AWEA yesterday announced that the US had reached a total cumulative installed capacity of 50GW. But Bode said that the PTC should be extended so “we can finish the job” even if the industry would not need the tax credit indefinitely.
Pattern Energy is about to flick the switch on Nevada’s first wind project as the turbines start turning today on the 150MW Spring Valley wind farm.
Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy, indicated that it would be difficult to develop wind projects without the PTC.
“If you take away the PTC, it’s like giving me three wheels to drive a NASCAR race when everyone else gets four wheels. Is everyone going to give up their tax breaks, or is it just wind? I told an oil and gas group two years ago, if you give up all your tax benefits, we’ll give up ours and go head to head any time.”
Secretary of State for the Interior, Ken Salazar, said that his department had permitted 31 commercial renewable energy projects on federal lands since he began his tenure in January 2009.
In his State of the Union address this year, President Barack Obama said that 10,000MW of renewable projects would be permitted by the end of the year.
“We will get that done,” said Salazar.
Salazar said he hoped the interior department would be in a position to grant a permit for a wind project in Wyoming, the Choke Cherry/Sierra Madre Wind Project, with a capacity up to 3,000MW. That energy will be imported into Nevada and California.
Last year, the Cape Wind project, off the coast of Massachusetts, became the first US offshore wind project to complete a federal permitting process that took around 10 years.
Salazar said that process sped up only when he appointed a dedicated “strike team” to accelerate it. He added that other offshore wind developers should receive leases for projects along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico by the end of the year.
“We have seen the interest the companies from major companies like Siemens. They want offshore wind to become a reality in the US. We want it too. If Denmark, Germany and other countries [have offshore wind projects] why can’t we in the US?
“These projects will become some of the most significant landmarks in clean energy revolution, which is taking place before our very eyes,” he said.