Contrary to a report last week, Acciona Windpower does not plan to layoff staff if the U.S. Congress does not pass tax credits that support wind energy production.
Radio Iowa reported on Feb. 20 that Iowa Wind Energy Assoc. Executive Director Harold Prior said that if the Production Tax Credit, which includes wind energy, is not passed this spring, Iowa could stand to lose “close to 3,000” jobs.
“Clipper’s already laid off 100. Acciona’s probably going to be laying off some more. Then the tower and blade people are going to be laying off. You know, that could be about 2,000 within the next three to four months,” Prior was quoted by Radio Iowa.
Prior, talking to the West Branch Times on Thursday, said he felt pressed by the reporter to be specific on the PTC impact on Iowa.
“I have no information that Acciona is going to lay off people,” he told the West Branch Times. “I was trying to generalize the entire industry, … and I made a statement I should have not made specifically.”
However, Prior said he is “confident” that if Congress does not pass the PTC, “a number of companies will have to look at layoffs.”
Joe Baker, CEO of Acciona Windpower in West Branch, said that he was aware of Prior’s comments on Radio Iowa.
“It’s not accurate,” he said, because Acciona has orders for the next year and a half.
“For the next 12 to 18 months, we have a very solid backlog that is not dependent on the PTC going forward,” he said. “We have the ability to ship outside the United States, and have customers outside the United States for 2013 that will keep employment at current levels.”
Baker said the West Branch plant even has “open requisitions for hiring a few new employees.”
Prior said that since the PTC will expire at the end of 2012, investors will not put up capital for wind farms planned in 2013 and beyond.
“It is a three- to five-year process,” he said. “(Investors) want some assurance on their investment.”
Prior said that there are “no new turbine orders for 2013 right now,” and that companies which build the primary components for wind turbines – like the nacelles, or motors, produced in West Branch – are not going to build something that has not already been sold.”
“The lead time for nacelles is the furthest of any major component suppliers,” Prior said. “They are not building turbines for inventory, they build to order.”
The PTC was originally sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in 1992, and IWEA, following the American Wind Energy Assoc., is asking Congress to extend it for another four years. Both of Iowa’s senators and all of its Congressmen are supporting an extension of the PTC, Prior said.
The Iowa congressional delegation tried to get the PTC attached to the recently passed payroll tax bill, but could not. Prior said they are now trying to get it attached to the transportation bill, but that is not going well.
“If we do not get it attached to the transportation bill, it may be the last legislative vehicle to get the PTC (passed),” he said. “Then there is not much until after November.”
Grassley, in a statement, said it is also possible the PTC could be passed as a separate piece of legislation.
“Since I’m not in the majority, I’m not sure when the majority will take up another tax bill,” he said. “I hope they do it soon.”
Wind energy supports 3,000 jobs in Iowa, Grassley said.
“With the economy still sputtering, we cannot afford the job losses that occur from pulling the rug out from under industries like wind that are still developing and having difficulty obtaining financing.”
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, of the Second Congressional District, on Friday made a formal call for the PTC’s extension, writing a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
“We must continue to support emerging industries just as we have done, and continue to do, for the oil and gas industries,” Loebsack said in a statement. “Wind energy is extremely important for our state as well as other states and is becoming increasingly important for the U.S. Energy capacity.”
Baker said he thinks there is still a good chance the PTC will pass this year.
“Acciona continues to be confident that the members of the U.S. House and Senate will find an appropriate vehicle to pass, to include the wind energy PTC,” he said. “And we are optimistic it can be done.”
Prior said that IWEA would prefer to see the PTC extended for 10 years.
“(But) others think that is too big to ask,” he said. “Four years is more palatable to D.C.”
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