Remember the federal wind power tax credit?
It was just over a year ago that President Barack Obama came to Pueblo and told cheering supporters he’d protect and extend the federal tax credit that helps wind-turbine makers like Vestas stay in business.
Back then, the tax credit was caught in the cross-fire of a presidential election. Republican nominee Mitt Romney scorned it as an expensive government subsidy propping up an energy sector that couldn’t survive otherwise.
Oil-state lawmakers opposed the tax credit. Wind-state lawmakers wanted it. The political brawl finally ended Jan. 1 when Congress agreed to keep the Production Tax Credit alive through 2013.
Which is why Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is pushing again to have the PTC extended because once again it will expire on Dec. 30. He gave 27 floor speeches last year to support the tax credit – one for every state that shares in the industry.
In a speech Udall intends to give later this week, he reminds senators that when Congress dawdled to extend the tax last year, orders fell at Vestas plants in Colorado, including Pueblo’s.
“Congress should act now to extend the wind PTC or we risk losing this industry,” Udall’s speech insists.
So will the wind industry fall apart Jan. 1 as manufacturers warned a year ago?
“This year’s extension was a little different than in previous years because it lets the industry claim the credit for any work begun in 2013, not work completed,” explained a Senate staffer.
Which means Vestas can live off the work orders it received this year – at least for a while.
“We expect to be very busy in our four Colorado factories in 2014 and 2015,” said Andrew Longeteig, a Vestas spokesman.
“Thanks to this year’s extension of the (PTC) for wind energy, Vestas has received a number of large customer orders and we’ve hired hundreds of people in Pueblo due to strong customer order intake and we are also hiring now at three other factories in Northern Colorado,” he said.
Which isn’t to say the industry doesn’t want the tax credit extended for more years. It does.
“The more certainty Washington, D.C., can provide on the tax credits, the better able the wind industry can continue its investments and job creation in Colorado and across the country,” Longeteig said.
The PTC gives wind power producers a 2.3 cent tax credit for each kilowatt hour of electricity produced.
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