Wind Energy Works: We Need a PTC Extension

On December 31st of this year, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewable energy is set to expire. If we wake up on January 1st without an extension, we will be throwing away years of hard work setting up important renewable energy industries that help provide clean electricity, energy independence and, most importantly, jobs.

A recent DOE report indicates that over $14 billion was invested in wind power project installations just in 2011. The current wind power capacity in the US is 50,000 MW (enough to power 13 million homes) and six states now get over 10% of their electricity from wind power. But the most important fact to take away from the report is that the wind industry is a legitimate player in the US job market. Business has been booming; just ask states like Iowa, California, Texas and Oregon. They all rely on the wind industry to provide jobs to wind turbine manufacturers, installers and regulators. Even farmers are getting in on the profits by leasing their land to install wind turbines. Combine all of this with the fact that 70% of wind power equipment is being provided by American manufacturers, not foreign competitors, and we have the beginnings of a prosperous, domestic clean energy economy.

But if the PTC expires, this foundation will go to waste. Companies will be forced to shut down and layoff hardworking Americans. The DOE report estimates that around half of the nation’s 75,000 wind industry employees will lose their jobs. The companies that have enough money to survive will be outsourced to the highest bidder. Jobs and revenue will be sent overseas to countries that are willing to acknowledge that renewable energy is here to stay, something that our government has been hesitant to do. While we would rather support proven, reliable, and often toxic sources of energy, countries like China and Germany are investing record amounts of money into wind and solar projects. But by letting the PTC expire, opponents say, it will create a level playing field where the most efficient providers of energy will eventually win out.

However, allowing our home grown companies to compete against the likes of coal, oil and natural gas is not a fair fight. Those industries are also heavily subsidized by the government, often in the name of creating energy independence through our domestic fuel sources. Government subsidies allowed fossil fuels to become the power source of choice, so why not give wind power the same chance?

The Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2012, recently introduced by Rep. Bob Filner of California, would extend the PTC and aim to give American citizens the opportunity to buy bonds that will give wind power and other renewable solutions the chance that they deserve. The bonds would be available for as little as $25 and would have a very competitive rate of return. In order to support the burgeoning domestic renewable energy market, pieces of legislation like this will be essential.

Abandoning American companies that have worked for years to build their businesses would be devastating for thousand of American families and the American economy. In a time when we need stability the most, throwing away competitive American jobs and a blossoming clean energy economy is not the answer. Extending the PTC and supporting renewable energy projects like the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act will show workers in the wind and solar industries that the American government is serious about creating a clean energy economy and the jobs and revenue that it provides. 

Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock

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Matt Jennings is Green America’s Clean Energy Victory Bonds Outreach Fellow. He graduated from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill this May with a degree in Geography and a minor in Environmental Studies.

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