Highlighting the bipartisan nature of wind power was an engaging dialogue between Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, and Robert Gibbs, former Press Secretary and advisor to President Obama. As American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Denise Bode commented in introducing them, both administrations supported wind energy and extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC).
The two used the opportunity to exchange ideas and share in the opportunity for common ground the wind power industry presents in the otherwise partisan climate in Washington, D.C.
"My hope is that after the election people say, look, let’s start making some priorities and find some things that we can agree on, and maybe one of them is the production tax credit," said Rove. "It is a market mechanism, you don’t get paid unless you produce the power, and we’re not picking winners and losers, we’re simply saying for some period of time we will provide this incentive."
"The policy is airtight," said Gibbs. "We understand the jobs it produces, we understand the impact it has on our energy portfolio, and quite frankly there’s no reason we shouldn’t do it."
Noting that legislation passed Congress in a similar partisan, divided environment in 2005, Rove mused that surprising things can happen. "You don’t need moderates to get this done. You need conservative Republicans who say this means jobs to my district and a resource we’ve got plenty of. And you need Democrats to say this is a way to expand the range of options that we have as a country for energy."
And Gibbs noted the importance of predictability in order for business to operate successfully and create jobs. "We cannot have this yo-yo tax policy, where one day it’s there, the next day it might not be," he said.
The PTC for wind energy is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, and already the industry supply chain is feeling the effects. A recent study found that extending the PTC will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration will cause the loss of 37,000 jobs.
New AWEA Board Chair Tom Carnahan, president of Wind Rose Partners, LLC, made clear where the industry and policy need to go in the coming months so that wind power can provide jobs for America for years to come.
Making reference to the strong support that PTC extension efforts enjoy from conservative Republicans like Rep. Steve King of Iowa as well as business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and the Edison Electric Institute, Carnahan commented, "In a hyper-partisan Washington political environment, wind power is the most widely supported energy source there is."
Carnahan also guided a dynamic discussion in his role moderating a panel of leading wind turbines industry leaders, which included Mark Albenze, CEO of Siemens Energy Wind Power Americas; Jan Blittersdorf, president and CEO of NRG Systems, Inc.; David Flitterman chairman of Gamesa; James King, senior vice president and head of structured finance for the Americas at BayernLB; and Steve Lockard, president and CEO of TPI Composites, Inc. Members of the panel discussed their businesses going forward, as well as the roles of technological innovation and American manufacturing in reducing the cost of wind power.
"This is an industry that is not just accustomed to innovation – it thrives on it," said Carnahan.
The panel also called for members of the industry to continue outreach efforts to educate members of Congress about the importance of the PTC to American manufacturing jobs.
"You look at poll after poll and Americans want wind energy," said Blittersdorf.
WINDPOWER 2013 exhibit space selling briskly
Meantime, as industry members got business done on the tradeshow floor, they eagerly sought out exhibit space for WINDPOWER 2013, which takes place May 5-8 in Chicago. Headed into WINDPOWER 2012, WINDPOWER 2013 sales were already 60 percent sold out of the space available. Prospective WINDPOWER 2013 exhibitors can still secure their space before leaving Atlanta, right at the AWEA Booth (#1609).
WINDPOWER continues through Wednesday with another strong day of educational programming, networking opportunities, and exhibition floor activity. For more information on WINDPOWER, go to www.windpowerexpo.org.