WASHINGTON—Two Cabinet secretaries met with 14 leaders of the U.S. wind manufacturing, construction, and development sectors at the White House today, advancing a bipartisan effort to extend the wind energy Production Tax Credit before Congress recesses for the summer, and retain 75,000 U.S. jobs.
A bipartisan coalition has been raising this issue since late last year as an urgent need for action by Congress, including for example Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Steve King (R-IA), and Tom Latham (R-IA), as well as a bipartisan group of 23 governors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau, and the Edison Electric Institute.
Extension of the tax credit appears on a "To-Do List" for Congress and the Administration to act on by August to create jobs and help the middle class.
Industry leaders explained that the extension is urgent to keep its 75,000 jobs, a new U.S. manufacturing sector, and over $15 billion a year in private investment. The industry is in the midst of preparations for the world's largest annual wind event, the WINDPOWER 2012 Conference and Exposition, June 3-6 in Atlanta.
President Obama will tour a wind blade factory in Newton, Iowa, this Thursday, where over 700 people got jobs after Maytag closed a factory there.
"With both President Obama and members of Congress covering the whole political spectrum supporting the wind tax credit to keep U.S. manufacturing jobs, it shows there's a real chance of getting it done in time to keep this homegrown industry growing in America," said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, who was present at today's meeting.
The wind PTC has attracted support this year from a broad cross-section of Congress, including 21 House Republican cosponsors, and a number of Republican Senators.
Today's meeting was attended by White House energy adviser Heather Zichal, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese.
Present for the industry were: Jan Blittersdorf, NRG Systems, Inc. President & CEO; John Purcell, Leeco Steel Vice President, Energy Division; Susan Reilly RES Americas CEO; Stefan Nilsson, DMI Industries President; Terry Royer, Winergy Drive Systems CEO; Mark Albenze, Siemens Energy Inc. CEO; Steve Trenholm, E.ON Climate & Renewables North America CEO; Doug Fredrickson, Blattner Energy, Inc. Executive Vice President for Renewables; Victor Abate, GE Energy, Vice President-Renewables; Ned Hall, The AES Corporation, COO for Global Generation and Executive Vice President; Joseph Baker, Acciona Windpower North America CEO; Armando Pimentel, NextEra Energy, Inc. President & CEO; Rob Gramlich, AWEA Senior Vice President for Public Policy, as well as Bode.
"Young people flocked to wind energy jobs over the past decade because they see the promise of a bright career that also means doing something to create a new and better future," said NRG Systems CEO Jan Blittersdorf afterward. "We know those jobs are at risk now, and those of us employing these bright young people don't want to see them leave or get discouraged."
In the past five years of bipartisan policy stability, American wind power has created one of the largest providers of new American electric generation, with 35% of all new power capacity, right behind natural gas. A typical wind turbine now generates 30% more electricity, while driving down costs. "Wind power is American ingenuity and entrepreneurship at work," Bode said.
A critical part of the equation are nearly 500 new American manufacturing facilities with 30,000 workers in the wind energy supply chain from coast to coast, whose orders for 2013 now hang on the tax credit's extension. The Production Tax Credit hasn't been allowed to expire since 2005. "This is what successful policy looks like when it's working," Bode said.
Unless extended by Congress, however, it next expires at the end of 2012. "Wind projects typically have an 18- to 24-month development cycle. So effectively the PTC is already expiring," said Bode. "That is why an extension is urgently needed now. We can't afford to wait until the PTC runs out."
Layoffs are beginning across the industry because of that uncertainty, with 10,000 jobs lost expected by year's end, and 37,000 jobs lost predicted within a year by Navigant Consulting.
On the other hand, Navigant said that with predictable policies, wind could grow to 100,000 jobs by 2016; and, the U.S. Department of Energy predicted in 2007 that wind could support 500,000 jobs by 2030.
"Extending the PTC already has broad bipartisan support, but Congress and the President need to act," Bode said. "Let us finish the job of creating this industry."