PTC: Act quickly on wind power tax credit

When the U.S. Senate returns from recess, we hope one of the first things it addresses is wind energy.

wind turbine

Wind turbines are pictured in this February 2008 file photo on the property of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center located at the base of the foothills just south of Boulder.

We were pleased last week that a Senate committee amended a bill with a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy, which is critical for the well-being of an important industry in Colorado.

Unfortunately, it was done right before lawmakers left on their five-week August recess, meaning the wind industry will be left with uncertainty until at least September.

Our hope is that the tax credit will be among the first issues the Senate takes upon its return, and that it then moves quickly through the House.

The credit keeps wind energy competitive with other types of power and helps companies draw financing.

The amendment to extend the credit for a year was added to a bill Thursday by the Senate Finance Committee despite some earlier concern among Republicans that doing so would put them at odds with the party’s presumptive nominee. Ultimately, it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

That may not be a surprise when you look at where wind towers are in operation.

Data from the American Wind Energy Association show more than 40 percent of the members of Congress have wind towers in their districts. Notably, 81 percent of installed wind capacity in the United States is in congressional districts in which the seat is held by a Republican, according to the association.

That holds true in Colorado, where the vast majority of installed wind capacity is in the third and fourth districts — seats that are held by Republican Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, respectively. Earlier this year, they joined six other members of the state’s nine-member delegation in urging a short-term extension.

The industry has previously said that wind energy will soon be able to compete on the open market without the tax credit, and we think a short-term extension will help them get to that point.

But we’re also aware that early on in the next Congress, the nation’s entire tax system will need review and overhaul if we are to get a handle on the federal debt.

Federal support of an industry through tax credits is not necessarily wasteful spending, in our view. We see it as an investment.

We prefer to see the investment pay off in full, rather than wade through the carnage of a collapse should the extension fail.

The wind association estimates that failure to extend the tax credit would result in the loss of 5,000 jobs in Colorado and tens of thousands more across the country.

Given the state of the economy, we hope to see the Senate and the House rally around this bipartisan issue in short order.