Production tax credit
In the USA, a “production tax credit” (PTC) for industrial wind turbines was established in 1992 and first applied to facilities built in 1993. It provided a tax credit to a facility for 10 years of 1.5 cents per kWh of electricity generated. Every year it is adjusted for inflation, e.g., to 2.4 cents in 2017.
After the initial legislation expired after 1999, the PTC was allowed to lapse for a year, as it was again after 2001 and 2003. As the wind industry lobby has noted, wind development dropped precipitously in years when the PTC was not available to help energy companies avoid taxes.
In 2015, legislation ended the PTC for non-wind renewables after 2016 and established a phase-out for wind. Facilities first claiming the PTC in 2017 would get 80% of its value, in 2018 60%, and in 2019 40%. After 2019, new facilities could not claim the PTC. However, in late 2019 the PTC (and ITC – see below) was extended to the end of 2020, at the 2018 rate.
The PTC can be claimed for the year in which construction began (called “safe harbor”) if continuous progress is made towards completion for and operation begins within up to 4 years (called “continuity safe harbor”). For example, if a project commenced construction in 2019, the developer could claim the 2019 PTC if the facility is operational before the end of 2023 and then take advantage of the tax credit until 2033. In late May 2020, in response to the SARS-coronavirus-2 shutdowns, the Internal Revenue Service extended the continuity safe harbor to 5 years for projects started in 2016 or 2017 (i.e., they have until the end of 2021 or 2022 to complete construction and become operational to claim the 2016 or 2017 PTC) and extended the safe harbor by 3.5 months for projects that would have begun construction (i.e., services or property paid for) from September 16, 2019, to October 15, 2020. In late June 2021, the continuity safe harbor was extended again: to 6 years for projects started in 2016–2019 and 5 years for projects started in 2020.
In December 2020, Congress extended the PTC and ITC – at the 2018 rate – for onshore projects starting construction in 2021.
Investment tax credit
As an alternative, facilities eligible for the PTC can claim an “investment tax credit” (ITC), in which a projected value of the PTC over its 10 years (namely, 30% of the capital investment) is taken up front.
The ITC for industrial wind is being phased out in the same way as the PTC.
In December 2020, Congress extended the ITC – at the 2018 rate – for offshore projects starting construction after 2021.
- American Wind Energy Association. 2015. “Wind Energy and the PTC”.