WASHINGTON – Microsoft and Sprint – both Fortune 100 companies with substantial commitments to renewable energy – delivered a letter today to Congressional leadership asking for an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power – scheduled to expire in December 2012.
The letter calls on Congress to act immediately to extend the PTC before it expires at the end of the year. More than 400 wind manufacturing facilities in 43 states are facing imminent risks of layoffs and shutdowns for lack of orders.
Nearly half of the world’s largest corporations plan to moderately or significantly increase investment in renewable energy over the next five years, according to research by Ernst & Young released last week. Microsoft and Sprint are the largest “wind customer” companies to call on Congress to extend the PTC, ranking 37th and 90th, respectively, in the Fortune 500, with combined annual revenues of over $100 billion. They join 15 other major U.S. companies and consumer brands, including Starbucks, Nike, Campbell’s Soup, Staples, and Yahoo!, who signed a similar letter in February.
“The PTC has enabled the wind industry to slash wind energy costs – 90 percent since 1980 – a big reason why companies like ours are buying increasing amounts of wind energy,” the letter states. “Failure to extend the PTC for wind would tax our companies and thousands of others like us that purchase significant amounts renewable energy and hurt our bottom line at a time when the economy is struggling to recover.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Microsoft is the third largest purchaser of green power in the U.S. – more than 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually – equivalent to 46 percent of its electricity use. Microsoft announced last month that beginning in fiscal year 2013, (July 1 of this year) the company plans to achieve carbon neutrality across all of its direct operations including data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings through a combination of renewable energy investments and a cascading carbon fee that will hold each business division accountable for its carbon emissions.
“We believe that our commitment to carbon neutrality is consistent with the culture of innovation at Microsoft which will help increase our focus on efficiency and clean energy,” said Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft. “In joining Sprint, we recognize that there is much more work to be done to help society transition to cleaner, more reliable and secure energy sources.”
Sprint is the only wireless provider to be included on the U.S. EPA Green Power Partners National Top 50 list, and is number 14 on the Fortune 500 list. In 2006, Sprint announced a five–year agreement with Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) that facilitated the development of the Spearville, Kansas Wind Farm. In 2010, wind power provided 93% of the energy needs for Sprint's 200-acre Overland Park, Kansas campus.
The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of generated electricity for wind developers, which translates to lower delivered cost of the resource. Since the PTC was enacted seven years ago, wind power capacity has increased by 47,000 megawatts, a seven-fold increase.
The companies warned Congress that “eliminating the PTC will sharply increase prices for wind energy and particularly affect the many large and influential companies that are already committed to buying and using wind energy."
It will also shut down much of a thriving U.S. manufacturing sector, one of the fastest-growing sources of factory jobs even in the depths of the economic slowdown.
Corporate leaders across diverse industries are rapidly increasing their use of wind energy. Wind energy serves to bring down the marginal costs for electric power, enabling large power purchasers to incorporate wind power into their energy portfolios at a competitive price, making them better prepared to handle volatility in the market.
"This is what successful policy looks like when it's working,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. "Wind power gives major corporate energy purchasers the competitive advantage of an energy source that is immune to price shocks. And the Production Tax Credit provides the tax relief necessary to rapidly scale up the industry and its manufacturing here in the U.S.”
The Production Tax Credit for wind has been in place without interruption since 2005 and has led to 47 GW of new wind capacity, equal to about 94 power plants, spurring nearly $70 billion in private investment, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Largely owing to the PTC, wind energy accounted for 35% of new electrical generation capacity installed in the past four years, and now supplies 20% of electricity needs in states like Iowa and South Dakota. Nationwide the wind energy industry supplies close to 3% of electricity nationwide and on track so far to make 20% of all of America’s electricity by the year 2030, as projected by the George W. Bush administration.