US Wind Industry Shudders as Senate Lines Up to Slam the PTC Subsidy Scam

turbine collapse 9

An ‘industry’ that just can’t stand on its own two feet …

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Senate votes down PTC amendment
E&E Daily
Nick Juliano
29 January 2015

A majority of the Senate went on record yesterday against reinstating an expired renewable energy tax credit through the end of the decade.

The 47-51 failure of a nonbinding measure calling for a five-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) delivered a tough start to the year for supporters of the wind energy industry, the credit’s primary beneficiary. The credit lapsed at the beginning of the year, and industry supporters hope to see a longer term extension or phaseout of the credit enacted as part of comprehensive tax reform or an “extenders” package, which typically provides a temporary extension for numerous expired credits at once.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) offered the PTC amendment to the Senate’s pending bill to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, and it was one of more than two dozen energy and climate change amendments that have received votes in the three weeks the bill has been on the floor. The Senate is expected to wrap up its work on the underlying KXL bill today.

“Just like I’d love to give certainty to TransCanada so that they know exactly what they need to do, there’s another industry that needs certainty, too,” Heitkamp said before the vote. “And that’s the wind energy industry. They’ve been whipsawed back and forth on whether they’re going to get the credits or not get the credits.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), one of the GOP’s biggest wind boosters, said the amendment did not help advance the goal of providing more certainty to the wind industry, given that it called for a straight five-year extension when many lawmakers – especially wind-supporting Republicans – were coalescing around proposals for a phaseout of the credit.

“I think the longer conversation is going to commence, irrespective of how this goes, but probably it would be better if we went about this in the right way,” Thune said before the vote. A senior member of the tax-writing Finance Committee who holds the No. 3 GOP leadership post, Thune added that the committee is primarily interested in moving a broad tax reform package this year, which could address the PTC’s future.

If that tax reform falters, Thune said, the committee likely will do “some sort of an extenders package, in which case I think we’ll probably be able to get some certainty in some kind of a reasonable phaseout.”

Heitkamp cast the amendment as an effort to see where senators stood on the issue and dismissed concerns that it could complicate delicate negotiations around a PTC extension and/or phaseout later this year.

“How can I muddy it by asking people where are they today? And if they don’t want to say they’re for wind energy, then we know what we’re up against,” Heitkamp told E&E Daily. “This idea that somehow taking this vote will somehow limit options later on, well, taking any of these votes will limit options later on, and at least this way we’re going to know where we are.”

Just three Republicans backed the measure – Sens. Susan Collins of Maine; Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who wrote the first PTC law in 1992; and Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is expected to face a tough re-election race next year. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has criticized the credit in the past, was the only Democrat to vote against it.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who campaigned in part on his support for clean energy when he unseated Mark Udall last year, released a statement immediately after the vote declaring his continued support for “incentives” directed toward the wind industry but declaring yesterday’s amendment misguided. Specifically, he said the PTC should be addressed in the context of tax reform and faulted the amendment for offering “no vision of how to eventually ramp down” the PTC.

“Regrettably, the lack of responsible planning in this amendment makes it harder for those of us who do support the Wind Production Tax Credit to come to a bipartisan agreement about its extension,” Gardner said. “I hope that the Senate can work on the badly-needed reform that could properly incentivize clean American energy while modernizing our nation’s tax code.”

The vote came after the American Wind Energy Association yesterday released its fourth-quarter report showing the industry added 4,850 megawatts of new capacity last year and has more than 12,700 MW under construction as of the beginning of this year. Almost all of that under-construction capacity will be able to qualify for the PTC thanks to a change in the law’s eligibility requirements enacted a few years ago.

An AWEA representative faulted the venue for yesterday’s amendment vote and said its consideration alongside the KXL bill obscured the true level of support in the Senate.

“Senator Heitkamp’s amendment to extend the PTC could have encouraged a constructive, bipartisan conversation about how to do that,” Jim Reilly, AWEA’s senior vice president for federal affairs, wrote in a blog post. “Instead the amendment, like many offered today to the Keystone XL bill, was viewed as a political issue rather than an opportunity to advance important policy and America’s energy security.”

Another industry lobbyist, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said no one in the industry asked Heitkamp to offer the amendment and said its five-year horizon was likely more than could be supported by some members who could still be convinced to back a phaseout or shorter-term extension. The source also noted that the 47 votes in favor of the amendment would be more than enough to sustain a filibuster of a tax bill that would not extend the PTC later this year.

Still, PTC opponents were more than pleased with yesterday’s results. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the credit’s fiercest critics, said the vote was “a considerable improvement” over previous votes to extend the credit and represents “a growing recognition that it’s time for that government subsidy to go away.”

Alexander also suggested Heitkamp may have erred in forcing the vote so early in the year.

“Well,” he said, “it wasn’t smart to show your weakness.”
E&E Daily

Former Republican Senator, Don Nickles followed up on the wind industry’s brewing PTC nightmare with this piece in The Hill.

Allowing wind to thrive without the PTC
Congress Blog: The Hill
By former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.)
29 January 2015

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), couldn’t be more correct when noting just how strong the U.S. wind industry is. “Wind energy is an American success story: the U.S. invented utility-scale wind farms, and by investing in them here in the U.S., we now have some of the best infrastructure this country has ever built,” Kiernan wrote last week in an op-ed for The Hill’s Congress Blog.

Wind is a mature and thriving industry, which is precisely why one of the industry’s arguments that the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) is needed to support a “nascent” industry is a total fallacy. There is simply no need for the PTC to exist any longer. I am hopeful that the Republican Congress recognizes this, and does everything they can to ensure the PTC expires permanently, including by taking up much-needed comprehensive tax reform.

Twenty years ago when I was in the Senate and the tax credit was enacted, wind was indeed an infant industry. But that is no longer the case; wind has expanded tenfold in the last 10 years alone and is more than ready to compete on a level playing field with other forms of electricity generation. Case in point – a recent New York Times article highlights how the cost of generating electricity from wind has plummeted so significantly that wind power is now cheaper than conventional generation in some regions even without the PTC, and AWEA says that costs are down 50 percent in the last five years alone.

Though unnecessary, at least Congress only extended the PTC through the end of 2014, and not longer, as part of the $41.6 billion tax extenders legislation. And despite the PTC coming in at a cost of more than 15 percent of the total package that year, the wind industry called the extension “worthless.” I doubt that the American taxpayers who are footing this bill for billions of dollars would agree. Not to mention, wind operators benefit from the PTC for a ten-year period while they generate power!

Proponents of the PTC continue to argue against all logic for its extension. In a tax system that is rife with overly generous subsidies like the PTC, what Congress should be looking at right now is comprehensive tax reform that would benefit all American taxpayers, instead of maintaining the status quo and supporting subsidies and credits like the PTC at the behest of special interests.

Nickles served in the Senate form 1981 to 2005. is the chairman and CEO of The Nickles Group, LLC.
The Hill

nickles_03_013009

Former Republican Senator, Don Nickles: knows a rort when he sees one.

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Way back in 1984, Christopher Flavin, the President emeritus of the Worldwatch Institute, ran a pitch that in a few years’ time wind energy would not need to be subsidised.

Over 30 years later, and the wind industry the world over still keeps talking itself into circles: one minute it’s ready to take on conventional generators head-to-head; the next it’s wailing about the need to keep the subsidy gravy train running just that little bit longer.

In Australia, the wind industry spin-cycle is just the same.

Here, the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers – like The Climate Speculator’s, Tristan Edis (see our post here) – keep telling us in one breath how cheap wind power is by comparison with conventional power sources – a story pitched up in order to counter the recent challenge to the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target and its insane cost to power consumers – and have gone so far as to resort to the fantasy that wind power is (now) actually cheaper than coal-fired power – see this piece of twaddle from ruin-economy, for example.

But, in the very next breath, start wailing – like Tristan has – about it being “totally unacceptable that the Renewable Energy Target should be reduced”.

So which is it?

Is wind power a truly competitive power generation source and, therefore, capable of selling itself without the need for the $50 billion worth of Renewable Energy Certificates, to be collected by retailers through retail power bills as a tax on all Australian power consumers and delivered to wind power outfits as a guaranteed subsidy over the next 17 years? (Retailers have a “choice”, of course: it’s either purchase wind power to pick up RECs or get whacked with a $65 per MWh fine). See our posts here and here and here.

Or – is wind power just a perpetual infant, that will never “grow up” – because, in the absence of massive subsidies and punishing fines, retailers wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole? See our posts here and here.

The wind industry has had over 30 years to get its subsidy “story” straight, but continues to respond with a tale that’s as “twisty and turny” as a “twisty-turny thing”.

So, don’t expect a straight answer any time soon.

dirtyrottenscoundrelsoriginal

Oh!?! You want a straight answer?

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. New Bedford News Media Journalism

    Brian Williams-Social Media- New Bedford Ocean Terminal

    New Bedford, Massachusetts

    February 8,2015

    Folks , Brian Williams an American “journalist” “anchor” and managing editor of NBC was caught lying to the public in news broadcast to the entire nation. He’s not the only one. Your local news groups are guilty of lying through omissions.

    A local Massachusetts newspaper blames “social media” for the downfall of Brian Williams. You have got to ask why the old mainstream media calls the social media a problem. They don’t like it when a story can be spread so fast and many people can have an opinion or share a version so quickly. They lose control of what information they want you to have.

    For quite some time I have been saying industrial wind turbines are a bunco scheme of enormous consequence and people who value intellectual honesty should not be fleeced by their government.

    The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal is a financial fiasco. Your politicians have been lying to you and the news media has been going along with the lies and distortions

    Former Governor Patrick through his administration got Massachusetts in debt to 800 million dollars building wind turbines and wind turbine related sites like the Charlestown wind blade testing site and the incomplete New Bedford ocean wind turbine port that had already been built at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

    Massachusetts taxpayers are subsidizing the offshore wind turbine industry and all your news media and political figures are pulling the wool over your eyes.

    In order to build the New Bedford ocean wind turbine port taxpayers were told by Governor Patrick in 2010 the port would cost 35 million. Today the port costs are nearing 135 million and the owners of the port the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center refuse to comment on costs, completion dates and a lease prematurely written to Cape Wind in September of 2014 for 187,500.00 per month. The port was leased before the final costs and completion dates.

    Your local and state politicians accompanied by the news media went to visit the port of Bremerhaven, Germany an offshore wind turbine port prior to building the New Bedford ocean wind port. They came back and told you nothing but good news.

    What the heck were they looking at? Bremerhaven is a port located right on the ocean with a 3000 foot access similar to Quonset Point , Rhode Island. New Bedford has a 150 foot wide opening at the hurricane gates with only a 120 foot wide legal clearance. The news media and politicians turned the story around telling you New Bedford is a protected harbor with a hurricane gate but left off the fact that most wind turbine Jack Up barges world wide don’t fit through the narrow opening at the gates. The entrance is too small for a wind turbine port.

    The news media and politicians continue to tout the ocean port in Bremerhaven, Germany but what they won’t tell you is the layoffs and anyone left is a part time worker. The Bard 1 offshore wind project is another financial fiasco with massive failures of the electric service platforms unable to send reliable power back to shore.

    The sly news media and politicians continue hiding on an ongoing agenda the incomplete work at the New Bedford ocean wind port or South Terminal or what ever new name they call it to hide the fiasco..

    Today the rail link to the terminal is a half mile away. The outer federal channel outside the narrow hurricane gates needs dredging. An AM radio station needs to be moved off four acres. There are no service cranes at the site.

    In a couple of weeks the news media and your politicians are going to announce the project complete.

    Would you ever get this news from the main stream media ? Or should I say would you ever get the truth ?

  2. Maybe Weatherill is coming into puberty at last.

  3. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  4. Jim Hutson says:

    South Australian Premier, Mr Jay Weatherill, announces ” we should have a debate on the use of Nuclear power in South Australia ” Could this be a realization that his Wind Energy Policy is a basket case and should be thrown out as it was 200 years ago.

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