Wind energy industry calls on Congress to avert more layoffs

Siemens Wind Power, a leading manufacturer of wind turbines, yesterday announced more than 1,000 layoffs, or approximately half their U.S. labor force.

The move will cut half the workforce at the company’s turbine plant in Hutchinson, Kansas, and also lay off workers at plants in Iowa andFlorida.

Layoffs continue to mount throughout the development and manufacturing sectors of the wind energy industry as a deadline looms at the end of this year, despite abumper crop of wind farms still under construction across America.
“This is a terrible shame,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “It’s a great loss to America, in what has been one of our leading sources of new manufacturing jobs. But Congress can make it stop.”

The news comes on the heels of layoffs in Nebraska and Washington at wind tower maker Katana Summit, along with wind blades manufacturer Molded Fiber Glass, in Aberdeen, S.D. Ninety-two of 370 workers will lose their jobs at Molded Fiber Glass (approximately 25 percent of the workforce), and the Katana plants are to close entirely, putting nearly 300 people out of work.

“Uncertainty about the future of tax credits for wind power is forcing the closures,” Katana CEO Kevin Strudthoff told the Associated Press. He said orders for the towers Katana Summit makes have nearly stopped for 2013because wind power developers want to know whether the tax credits that expire at the end of this year will be renewed.

The federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) is the primary financial policy driver for wind energy investment. The federal PTC XE “PTC”  is an effective tool to allow developers to raise private capital in the marketplace and bring renewable energy projects to completion. Unless Congress acts to extend the PTC, it will expire at the end of 2012.

According to Navigant Consulting, 37,000 Americans stand to lose their jobs by the end of the first quarter of 2013 if Congress does not extend the PTC.

“This business decision was necessary to respond to market conditions that are beyond our control and affecting the entire U.S. wind power industry,” Siemens said in its statement.

According to Bode, that is a reference to uncertainty surrounding the PTC. “When the PTC has expired in the past, installations have dropped between 73 and 93%, with corresponding job losses,” Bode said.

“But extending the PTC can bring America’s homegrown, affordable, clean and abundant wind energy industry across the finish line to establish economic viability and long-term stability.”

According to Bode, “the latest round of layoffs is a direct result of policy uncertainty and gridlock on Capitol Hill.” She cites surveys that show an overwhelming majority of Americans—well over 80% of all Republicans, Democrats and Independents—want more wind power.

“Support for the PTC crosses party lines in Congress and the states,” said Bode. “Democratic and Republican governors, senators and members of Congress agree that wind power is a path to energy independence, and one of the fastest-growing sources of new U.S. manufacturing jobs. Congress needs to act swiftly to avert any more layoffs and restore stability to this critical and broadly supported industry.”