The pressure is on to finalize the proposed tax bill before Congress that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans. Last minute amendments are expected in order to garner support among lawmakers who oppose the initial agreement forged between the White House and key Republicans. The worry now is whether the bill will become a vehicle for piling on more spending as the lame duck session finishes up.
AWEA and the wind industry are in a huff over the possibility that a subsidy first introduced as part of the stimulus plan (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) will be allowed to expired on December 31.
They're asking that the 1603 tax grant money (ITC), due to sunset this year, receive a one-year extension. If extended, this will add $3 billion to the deficit in 2011 alone, according to congressional tax estimators, on top of the billions already pledged in the form of production tax credits granted operating wind facilities.
Earlier this week, AWEA complained that 15,000 wind-related jobs were at risk if the ITC expired but by today upped the ante to 25% of U.S. wind-related jobs, about 20,000 jobs. As is typical, the wind lobby offered no substantiation for its figures but we know that most are temporary construction positions.
Before Congress caves to these complaints, legislators should revisit the articles from this fall that discussed how billions in grant money were squandered on projects that would likely have been built without federal funding. A preliminary evaluation of the ITC grant outlays found that 61% of the grant money distributed through to March 2010 "likely would have deployed under the PTC [production tax credit] if the grant did not exist." In many cases, money went to projects that were already under construction and, in others the wind facilities were already producing electricity.
Spanish energy giant Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., alone, received nearly a billion in cash grants.
After decades of federal subsidies flowing into big wind's coffers, the industry's appetite has grown to a point where it cannot be sustained. The upfront cash grants have only served to grow that dependency and in return, developers have no incentive to negotiate lower prices with suppliers and no financial obligation to meet claimed capacity factors.
The speed at which the industry became reliant on this new stimulus stands out and should raise a red flag for all of us -- especially our legislators.
If you agree, please take the time today to e-mail or fax members of your Congressional delegation and ask that they let the 1603 grant program expire. There are cheaper, much more effective opportunities for achieving clean energy goals without coddling the wind industry -- an industry that peddles a low-value electricity product and which, after decades of public handouts, has yet to show it can survive on its own.