WASHINGTON— A report from GAO (the Government Accountability Office) to be considered in a hearing on Capitol Hill today confirms that nearly all the financial value to wind developers is in a single remaining program, although the report also lists other programs that are now defunct, aren't even used by wind energy, or apply to fossil fuels.
"In particular, a tax expenditure and a grant initiative, both administered by Treasury, accounted for nearly all federal financial support for wind energy," the report says, referring to the Production Tax Credit and another program that has now expired.
"About half of all initiatives reported formal coordination," helping avoid duplication, as the report acknowledges.
"Wind energy is a good deal for Americans, and that's why they want more of it. Nothing in this report changes that," said Rob Gramlich, Interim CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, who is to testify at this afternoon's hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
The facts remain that wind energy has:
·Driven down costs to become America's leading form of new electric generation last year, with 71 percent of Americans saying they want more of it;
·Had only a modest federal incentive,a fifth to a tenth of what was given to other energy industries during their startup
·Brought up to $25 billion a year in private investment capital into the U.S. economy;
·Been paying back in taxes every dollar of the incentive and then some, over the life of the projects;
·Been subject to declining clean energy incentives that will fall 75 percent by 2014; and,
·Accomplished all this with just eight continuous years of the incentive, which is regularly threatened with expiration and does not allow for a predictable business environment.
Meanwhile, the GAO report has a number of serious flaws and its conclusions have been exaggerated by opponents of the wind energy incentive who are misusing it.
·Suggests there are 82 "wind-related initiatives", when only two are truly wind-specific;
·Counts dozens of programs that are defunct or never/rarely financially supported wind energy;
·Counts some programs twice or even more;
·Presents initiatives as "wind-only" when 80 include other activities as being eligible and half (41) also benefit non-renewable energy technologies, or have an analogous initiative in that department or agency that does; and,
·Claims program "duplication" when even the biggest potential identified by GAO was relevant less than 1% of the time.
Wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record and confirming its status as a mainstream energy source, according to the American Wind Energy Association's U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012, released last week. Wind topped all other energy sources by adding 42 percent of new U.S. electric generating capacity. It now generates enough power for 15.2 million homes.
This bumper crop of wind power was responsible for over 80,000 American jobs, including at over 550 U.S. factories; tens of millions of dollars to landowners and local communities in lease payments and property taxes; and billions in projected savings for electricity consumers.
In fact, the impact of wind power development was so strong that an industry analyst said it caused a noticeable uptick in the entire U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.
Wind power is also helping address the disaster-level drought that affected half of U.S. counties by saving over 35 billion gallons of fresh water (120 gallons a person this year for everyone in America), versus other water-intensive energy sources. And, it already avoids over 1.8 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the entire country.
Of the 3,250 electricity providers in America, 43 percent now own or have contracts for wind energy. That diversifies the U.S. energy portfolio and protects consumers against future price shocks for energy sources that require fuel.