24 governors ask President to focus on wind energy deployment

A coalition of 24 governors from both major parties and each region of the country has asked the administration to take a series of steps to provide a more favorable business climate for the development of wind farm plants, starting with a seven-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to provide stable, low tax rates for wind turbines generated electricity.

A letter from the governors, sent last month to the White House, has since been made public by the Governors Wind Energy Coalition. Signed by coalition chair Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI), and vice chair Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA), the letter says:

"Although tax credits for wind energy have long enjoyed bipartisan support, they are scheduled to expire next year. Wind turbines related manufacturing will slow if the credits are not extended, and some of the tax credits’ benefit will be lost if Congress pursues a last-minute extension. It is important to have consistency in policy to support the continued development of wind manufacturing in the United States. Extending the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, without a gap, is critical to the health of wind manufacturing in our nation. The wind manufacturing industry in the U.S. would benefit even greater if the extension of these credits would be for at least seven years."

"Governors have always focused on jobs and economic development as their main responsibility. Now that Washington is following suit, it helps for these Governors to tell Washington what has been putting people to work in their states," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. "It is also helpful for them to support the removal of roadblocks that can occur in administrative agencies, so that deployment objectives are not unintentionally thwarted."

The governors’ letter also calls for:

– Establishing a combined intergovernmental state-federal task force on wind energy development to "ensure the Administration’s wind energy goals are met."

– Expanding the Department of Energy’s renewable energy programs to "focus not only on technology research and innovation, but also on technology deployment and market development," noting that, "these are precisely the types of efforts other nations are utilizing to successfully compete with the United States. We must recognize that a scientific breakthrough five or 10 years from now, plus several more years for commercial acceptance, will be of little value if our wind industry has been relegated to minor players in the global marketplace."

– Improved collaboration on siting new wind turbines: "… [W]e believe wind energy and wildlife protection are entirely compatible and we urge a prompt resolution of the Wind Energy Guidelines and Eagle Guidance concerns."

– Expediting deployment of offshore wind farm: "A new U.S. offshore wind sector would create tens of thousands of jobs in businesses ranging from R&D and engineering to manufacturing and marine construction."

– Identifying transmission and grid integration priorities for Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) such as the Bonneville Power Administration

The 24 governors’ letter concluded, "We believe these actions will help address some of the national economic and energy challenges before our nation. We look forward to working with you and your Administration to further our nation’s wind energy development to help drive economic growth, energy development, and the creation of high-paying jobs." Full text is available from the coalition’s website.

The wind energy success story has come up on the campaign trail as well, such as when President Obama met with small business owners Aug. 16 in a diner in Guttenberg, Iowa. In the group was Rob Hach of Anemometry Specialists, a weather tower company based in Alta, Iowa, that surveys locations for wind turbines. Hach pressed for the Production Tax Credit’s extension, as did the governors.

Previously, at the Republican straw poll Aug. 13 in Ames, Iowa, six GOP presidential candidates including frontrunner Mitt Romney signed their names to a 130-foot turbine blade to show their support for the wind energy industry. (See further details.)

Governors play a major role in promoting wind energy themselves. In Iowa, Gov. Branstad signed the nation’s first renewable energy standard during the first year of his first term, in 1983. That encouraged Iowa to become the first state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind, a goal which the George W. Bush administration predicted the entire nation can reach by 2030.

As in Iowa, wind energy has become big business in Texas, where over 10,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power has been installed while Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been governor.

GOP candidate Newt Gingrich, in signing the wind blade Aug. 13 at the Iowa straw poll, said he favors a 10-year extension of the national tax incentive, to avoid the "up-and-down effect" on renewable energy development when the policy changes. "If you’re going to have tax credits that are designed to create investment, they have to have a long enough time horizon that people who invest believe that they’ll be there," Gingrich said.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a leader in getting the PTC for renewable energy extended from 2003 through 2012, also signed the wind blade that day. He said that considering the U.S. currently spends $830 million a day on foreign oil, we need an "all of the above" energy strategy that includes wind.

Steve Lockard, CEO of TPI Composites, greeted the presidential candidates at the wind blade, which was made at his factory and drives turbines each capable of making power for 500-1,000 homes. Lockard said U.S. business appears to be strong through 2012, keeping 700 workers at his plant working around the clock. "There’s growing concern about 2013 demand, due to the expiring tax credit," Lockard said.