WASHINGTON – U.S. manufacturers of wind turbines probably will cut jobs and production in 2013 if Congress doesn’t extend a tax credit for wind-energy generation, a trade group for the industry says.
The credit expires at the end of 2012. But the manufacturers need to know what will happen to it by this fall, because that’s when they make hiring, layoff and production decisions for 2013, said Rob Gramlich of the American Wind Energy Association.
“It’s a question for this fall – now – getting that tax credit extended,” Gramlich, whose Washington-based group represents wind-power utilities, researchers and manufacturers, said during a panel discussion this week hosted by NDN, a liberal think tank.
For utilities that install wind farms, the credit is worth 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour – about the energy a 40-watt light bulb uses in a day – during the first 10 years the farms operate.
Similar credits for other renewable sources such as geothermal and biomass don’t expire until the end of 2013.
As the turbine makers wait, a special committee of Congress is considering ways to cut the federal deficit. President Barack Obama has urged the committee to overhaul the tax code to eliminate most tax breaks, specifically mentioning those for oil, gas and coal, while lowering tax rates.
But he has not mentioned the wind-power credit, which was born in 1992 with bipartisan support.
Wind power recently has grown faster than any source of electricity in the U.S. except natural gas, representing 35 percent of all new capacity since 2007, according to the wind energy association.
Texas leads the nation in wind power, able to produce 10.1 gigawatts, followed by Iowa at 3.7 gigawatts, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Nebraska, at 0.3 gigawatts, trails all neighboring states, most of which have imposed requirements for developing renewable energy sources. Nebraska legislators have resisted setting such a requirement for the state’s publicly owned power industry, fearing electric rates would rise, but the largest power districts have adopted voluntary goals to increase renewables.
The wind-energy tax credit has a rocky history. It has lapsed several times, most recently at the end of 2003. After each lapse, wind-energy installations have fallen by 73 percent to 93 percent the following year, according to the association.
“We’ve been lucky to have the incredible manufacturing growth we’ve gotten,” Gramlich said.
The tax credit is important because the U.S. still hasn’t adopted a national energy policy that encourages renewables, he said. “Until that happens, our de facto energy policy is tax credits.”
World-Herald staff writer Roger Buddenberg contributed to this report.
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