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Pro-wind US group launches ad blitz targeting Washington

American Wind Action (AWA), a non-profit group launched in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election to promote wind energy, has launched a “multi-month, multi-million dollar campaign” targeting elected officials in Washington DC.

The group will run a series of TV, radio, and digital video ads aimed at “the public, President Trump, the Administration and Congress on the economic benefit of wind energy on American jobs, manufacturing and rural economies”, it said in a release.

The campaign will be AWA’s biggest, highest profile and most expensive to date. The group – a tax-exempt 501(c) “social welfare” organisation – launched last year with a $2m war chest, but says it intends to grow in 2017 “with an even larger and more aggressive budget”.

One AWA video posted recently to YouTube highlights workers at an Iowa factory owned by TPI Composites, which supplies wind blades to turbine-makers like Vestas and General Electric.

The formation of AWA coincided with the growing realisation among many in US renewables that the economic and social benefits of the country’s ongoing wind and solar booms were not being properly reflected in the political conversation about energy and rural development.

The wind industry, in particular, has focused its massive investments of the past decade in rural, often economically vulnerable parts of the country – mostly in Republican-controlled states and districts, where many of the country’s wind-related manufacturing jobs are located.

“Wind energy is one of our nation’s most successful rural economic development initiatives,” say AWA board members Sam Enfield and Jeff Clark. “This dynamic is well understood by some in Washington, but not by those less directly connected to these important rural constituencies.”

Wind energy provides farming and ranching families with much-needed extra income from their land, and delivers essential new revenue to local governments and school districts.”

AWA’s campaign comes at a hugely important time for the American wind industry, which is in the midst of an historic boom thanks to the late-2015 extension of the production tax credit – extended on a strong bipartisan basis – and ongoing cost reductions for wind power.

Yet while the industry is booming today, and employs more Americans than ever before, its future is uncertain. The PTC has begun phasing down and is set to expire entirely at the start of 2020. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the industry’s chief lobbying group, does not plan to ask for another PTC extension.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is moving to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which would have boosted renewables in the 2020s, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently ordered a study on baseload power that many view as slanted against intermittent renewables like wind and solar.

Separately, AWA released the results of a new survey that found strong support for renewables among registered American voters, chiming with previous polls.

By a roughly three-to-one margin, those surveyed said they believe it is more important for the US to increase its use of renewables than to expand the production of traditional fossil energy sources. Even among solid Republicans, renewables held a more than 20-point lead over fossil fuels on that question.

Only 3% of those surveyed said the US should not expand its use of renewables.