SEATTLE - Washington's wind energy industry is waiting for a favorable forecast from Congress. The wind production tax credit
is set to expire at the end of this year, and delayed decisions on its renewal have some sectors of the industry in a holding pattern. New legislation introduced this month would extend the credit for another two years, but it faces the same gridlock in Congress that has stalled other bills.
Erin Greeson, communications director for Renewable Northwest, says it is especially frustrating because the wind-power industry has invested almost $6 billion dollars in Washington, and is doing well.
"The production tax credit and other clean-energy policies have very strong bipartisan support. One reason is that these businesses work; wind works. These companies are growing and thriving. It's good business - it makes sense for businesspeople and workers."
The tax credit also benefits other renewable-energy sectors. When opponents of the idea say industries that are doing well do not need tax credits, Greeson points out that the oil and gas industries have received them for decades, and she says allowing renewables similar tax breaks is only fair.
Jimmy Glotfelty, co-founder of Clean Line Energy, a company that develops high-voltage, long-haul transmission lines for renewable energy, says the indecision is putting a damper on the economic benefits of wind. Without the tax credit, he predicts China will quickly step in to replace lost U.S. manufacturing. That means a loss of local jobs and county tax money, he warns, adding that the lack of action in Congress on this issue is already taking a toll.
"Companies should be producing components for 2013, and those orders are not happening right now because people are waiting to see if the tax credit is going to be renewed or not."
Glotfelty says any tax credit extension would be temporary, because as the industry grows, the credit would no longer be needed.
According to Renewable Northwest, wind projects in Washington have resulted in about 3,500 jobs.
The legislation, called the American Energy and Job Promotion Act (S.2201), was introduced in mid-March.