The main speakers at the opening session of the WINDPOWER 2012 Conference & Exhibition in Atlanta, Ga., provided a concise cross-section of the bipartisan support behind both the wind power industry and its primary incentive, the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC).
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D), and White House energy advisor Heather Zichal all expressed support for the PTC and placed it and the wind industry's future in the context of U.S. national priorities and needs.
Brownback noted that the Sunflower State currently leads the nation in new turbines under construction (663), an amount that will add another 1,400 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity and double the state's wind generation in a single year (1,400 MW is enough to power the equivalent of nearly 400,000 homes). Added the Governor, “I think we need to work the policy field–we need the PTC, and I hope you push actively and aggressively for it.”
Kansas's success in attracting wind companies and new wind farms, he said, is the result of a series of policies the state has enacted to encourage wind power's growth, including no property taxes on wind farms for 10 years, complete expensing in Year 1, net metering, and no income taxes on limited liability corporations or Subchapter-S corporations: “We want you in our state.”
Wind power, Brownback said, provides enormous opportunities for Kansas and America: “There are three E's that you're always trying to balance in government–Energy, Environment, and the Economy–and [your industry] is a big part of the equation. We need to solve our energy problems in a way that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.”
Beebe gave the standing-room-only crowd a pep talk, saying, “If you want to get people engaged, get Congress off its tail, you've got to get more people to have a direct interest in industry … I've got a big stake in wind. Our state was able to assist its riding out of the Great Recession because of new jobs created in the wind sector.
“You all need to quit talking to each other … You need to talk to people who are not well informed, and not committed to the wind energy sector. We don't need the PTC renewed for year. How in world do multi-billion-dollar investments get made, how in the world do you chart a course for the industry, how in the world do we get the transmission system expanded, with an incentive that's year-to-year, and you don't know whether it's going to be renewed. That's insane!
“You heard litany of companies behind [an extension. I can't imagine that it wouldn't be renewed, but it needs to be for a cycle that would allow people to make decisions two, three, five years ahead. … It seems logical on both sides of aisle, to do this on a long-term basis that provides for sustainable growth.”
Zichal struck a similar theme in her remarks, saying, “Congress should extend these tax credits, and they should do it now.
“The irony is that almost everybody seems to agree: President Obama; Republican Governors like Terry Branstad of Iowa, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and of course Sam Brownback of Kansas; Members of Congress in both chambers and on both sides of the isle–from Congressman Steve King to Senator John Kerry; The Chamber of Commerce; Fortune 500 companies like Nike and Yahoo! and Starbucks. I even hear that Karl Rove will be here tomorrow.
“I’ll admit: these are strange bedfellows. And I can’t remember a time when everybody I just mentioned was on the same page. This is a group that normally doesn’t agree on the time of day. But there’s a consensus on this issue. Because this isn’t about partisan politics. It’s about jobs. It’s about American manufacturing. It’s about keeping America competitive.
“So the message for Congress should be loud and clear: Save us the drama. Avoid the delay. Do the right thing and extend these tax credits as soon as possible.”
WINDPOWER 2012 will continue through Wednesday at the Georgia World Congress Center. For more information, go to www.windpowerexpo.org.