Fact check: Attack on Navigant jobs study lacks substance
Yet another series of attacks and claims have been released by clean energy opponents the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research (both of which receive fossil fuel funding support) by way of Charles Cicchetti. This time the attack focuses on job estimates from a study completed over a year ago by nationally recognized economic consulting firm Navigant Consulting, which assessed the impact of extending the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC). (Note: The same group issuing this most recent attack also previously attacked the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics’ renewable energy job estimates.)
Without going into all the flaws from the new effort, some of its most egregious claims include:
Claim 1: Expert consultant wind forecasts of wind deployment from a PTC extension are too high … based on Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts: The problem with this claim is that in the past, EIA forecasts for wind deployment have drastically underestimated actual wind deployment. For example, EIA currently forecasts that about 180 megawatts (MW) will be built over an 7-year period. In fact, the U.S. wind industry builds more wind projects in a single quarter, and sometimes a single month, than EIA forecasts for the next 8 years. The industry installed over 13,000 MW in 2012 alone (or roughly 70 times more than EIA projects for the next 7 years) and has installed on average 6,700 MW each year since 2005, entirely consistent with the Navigant study's forecast of a PTC in future years.
Claim 2: The only relevant jobs are on-site construction jobs: Mr. Cicchetti ignores most jobs involved with the wind industry such as site assessment, development, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, operations, just to name a few sectors (oddly, he claims to include “manufacturing” but any user of the public U.S. Department of Energy jobs model can cross-check his numbers to see that is false). Thomas Pyle of AEA, a former oil executive who is cited in the AEA release, is well aware that there are more than just construction jobs at stake when it comes to energy--that is why he uses jobs figures that include 35% manufacturing jobs when discussing the Keystone Pipeline. Given that the domestic content of wind turbines has increased to 67%, according to the Department of Energy, with roughly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country, just the manufacturing jobs alone associated with the towers, blades, nacelles and components manufactured in this country, would obviously add to the number of jobs supported by the wind industry development.
Setting aside assumptions, forecasts and claims, let’s just look at facts and history: After years of boom and bust with the Production Tax Credit expiring every other year, the credit was extended in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and has been in place since. The results from a period of stability?
- Over $95 billion of private investment has been pumped into new wind projects in the U.S., much of it flowing to local levels in the form of property tax payments to rural counties and land lease payments to farms and ranchers.
- Nearly 90% of all U.S. wind power projects were built--over 53,000 MW, which can generate electricity for the equivalent of 13.4 million typical American homes--or the equivalent of about 13 typical nuclear power plants
- The U.S. manufacturing sector increased to 500 manufacturing facilities across the country, ranging from producing the raw materials of steel and fiberglass to machining and fabricating the roughly 8,000 components parts in a turbine to assembly of the final product.
- Domestic content of wind turbines increased from less than 25% to 67%--which is approximately the same domestic content as in cars from General Motors and Ford.
While attacks from opponents of renewable energy are old news, some unrelated more recent news is the release data of actual generation for 2012 showing that wind energy increased to 3.5% of the U.S. power mix, with wind energy delivering more than 20% generation in Iowa and South Dakota, and a total of 9 states producing more than 10% of their electricity from wind energy.
The production tax credit (PTC) is a successful policy. It’s proven to be a good deal for consumers, workers, and private investors alike. Adding wind power to America's electricity generating mix saves ratepayers money, drives up to $25 billion in private investment annually, and supports tens of thousands of well-paying construction and manufacturing jobs in the wind and related industries. The rise of wind power as a legitimate industry has meant drawing the attention of competing interests who will say almost anything to discredit its brand.
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