Congress needs to renew clean energy tax incentives

As Coloradans, we have seen how wind energy is creating jobs and driving economic growth.

We know that making our buildings, appliances and equipment more efficient saves money and helps our environment.

And we know what happens to our climate if we don’t act.

It’s simply inconceivable, then, that Congress sat back and let critical tax policies for wind energy and energy efficiency expire at the end of last year. Congress needs to reinstate these critical federal tax policies — and do so now.

As an entrepreneur and investor, I know that smart tax policies can help both our economy and our environment. These incentives work. According to Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a business group I belong to, hundreds of clean energy jobs were announced in Colorado in 2013, thanks in part to smart federal and state policies.

Because of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), for instance, there were more wind projects under construction in 2013 than ever before.

Vestas Wind Systems is a prime example of why Congress needs to immediately renew the PTC that expired in December. Vestas recently announced it will hire hundreds of Coloradans at its plants in Windsor and Brighton after a surge of wind projects were announced. But when those projects are done, those jobs could be done too. After the PTC expired the last time, in 2012, Vestas was forced to lay off hundreds of employees because wind projects slowed dramatically.

Wind energy companies aren’t just creating manufacturing and installation jobs. They’re also helping keep family farms afloat in eastern Colorado by leasing land for wind turbines. And by creating a stronger, longer term market signal, more investment will become available to fund local wind technology companies such as Boulder Wind Power.

Like the PTC, recently expired energy efficiency tax incentives for buildings and appliances drive growth and jobs in construction, manufacturing and other fields while saving consumers money.

Nationwide, energy efficiency projects could save U.S. consumers $1.2 trillion and create up to 900,000 direct jobs by 2020, according to a McKinsey analysis.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock realizes the importance of energy efficiency. He recently joined nine other mayors nationwide to announce a new project that promises to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings, slash energy use, cut pollution, save money and create jobs. According to Mayor Hancock, the improvements from the City Energy Project will save as much as $51 million per year.

Local officials can only do so much, however. We need action from Congress on smart renewable energy and energy efficiency tax policies.

All of us have learned from droughts, freak storms and other extreme weather events that we must address climate change. We know we need to move to cleaner sources of energy that don’t pollute our air and water.

Extending smart energy efficiency and clean energy tax policies is a common-sense way to help both our economy and our environment. Congress should do so immediately, for the good of our state, our country and our planet.

Joel Serface is managing director of Brightman Energy.