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Wind energy group gives Exelon the boot

In an unprecedented move, the American Wind Energy Association has ousted Exelon Corp. from its membership ranks over the company’s lobbying efforts to kill a tax credit the wind industry claims is crucial.

The so-called wind energy production tax credit is scheduled to expire this year, and the Chicago-based company has spent untold dollars to convince legislators that it is no longer needed and distorts the market, causing harm to other more “reliable” clean energy sources. Exelon appeared on a panel Monday afternoon with Tom Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research to oppose the extension at the Republican Study Committee, a conservative group in the U.S. House.

“It is unfortunate that the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has voted to end Exelon’s membership in the organization,” Exelon said in a statement. “Exelon supports wind energy and is one of the largest wind energy producers in the country.”

“They’re acting in a way that’s inconsistent with our mission and our purpose, which is to promote the wind industry,” said Peter Kelley, association spokesman.

Kelley said the association doesn’t believe in “policing differing views” but said Exelon’s lobbying efforts threaten to kill a tax credit on which half the industry’s jobs depend.

“If they continue leading an organized campaign against the industry’s No. 1 priority they’re not acting in the best interests of the industry,” he said.

The Tribune reported in August that Exelon – the nation’s largest owner of nuclear power plants and historically a climate change evangelist – has been hurt by low-cost wind power, which is cutting into its margins at night when the wind blows, dipping power prices.

Exelon CEO Christopher Crane, who took the helm at Exelon this year from the nuclear power industry, told investors last month that $425 million the company had earmarked for wind investment in 2013 and 2014 will likely flow to other technologies, in particular, solar, if the tax credits are not extended by their expiration date at the end of 2012.

The company’s solar projects have been heavily subsidized by government programs. The Treasury Department approved a $646 million loan guarantee from by the Energy Department to help Exelon build a 230-megawatt solar project under construction in Los Angeles County. The company has said it expects to be fully reimbursed for the initial costs to build the project by 2015.

Exelon’s portfolio consists of 55 percent nuclear; 28 percent natural gas; and less than 3 percent wind power.