The Interior Department this week advanced a Norwegian company’s proposal to install the nation’s first floating wind turbines off the coast of Maine and said it would also review the state of Virginia’s plan to gauge wind resources off its shore. The two announcements signaled continued momentum in the Obama administration’s plan to expedite offshore wind development from Georgia to Maine. The agency late last month said it will hold the nation’s first competitive lease sales for offshore wind in 2013 off the coasts of Virginia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today accepted a new definition of the “bulk electric system” that changes which transmission lines and facilities must follow mandatory reliability standards. In line with the advice of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., the proposal sets a strict threshold of 100 kilovolts, rather than giving regional grid overseers authority to choose what should count as part of the bulk electric system.
All year, the wind industry’s lobbying arm has been asking Congress for one thing: an immediate extension of its prized tax credit for wind farms that begin construction next year. But a brief renewal of the production tax credit will not be all the support the industry needs over a longer time frame, and a growing mix of proposals is being floated on Capitol Hill to give the industry the certainty it says it needs. The result is a cloudy picture of what the industry can expect lawmakers to deliver, as the narrow debate over wind remains overshadowed by the larger fight over the “fiscal cliff” and increasing fear that Congress will not meet the end-of-the-year deadline to avoid those sweeping tax increases and spending cuts.
Lost among the fiscal cliff debates on marginal tax rates and the sequester is a bipartisan package of important tax cuts that the House and the Senate should take up and pass immediately, regardless of whether Democrats and Republicans can reach a larger compromise. I refer to a package of tax cuts passed earlier this year by the Senate Finance Committee, commonly referred to as the “tax extenders package,” which I feel has not received the attention it deserves as a major component of the fiscal cliff. While I hope the negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff are successful, we should not wait for a “grand bargain” to materialize before we finish our work on tax extenders. Tax extenders are different from the other fiscal cliff issues.
AWEA says Congress should extend the credit as part of a package to address the looming “fiscal cliff” of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts.
“It’s down to the wire on wind, and Congress has a choice. If they do nothing, the wind industry will fall over its own fiscal cliff and America will lose most of its wind installations next year,” said Rob Gramlich, senior vice president for public policy at AWEA, in a statement.
Opponents of an expiring wind energy tax break are urging lawmakers to vote against its extension and arguing the phaseout of the credit floated by an industry trade group would carry an exorbitant price tag, as wind supporters in Congress and the Obama administration continue to argue that an extension to the credit is vital to protect jobs. The back-and-forth fight over whether to extend the wind production tax credit beyond its scheduled end-of-the-year expiration continued to simmer in the background of the larger debate over the looming “fiscal cliff.” The credit is seen as a likely candidate for inclusion in a larger deal, and advocates and opponents yesterday continued to lay out their arguments for and against it. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a leading advocate for extending the credit, appeared yesterday at a forum with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, where the pair argued that extending the PTC was necessary to maintain jobs in the industry, especially among domestic manufacturers that have increased their supply of wind turbine components in the recent years that the credit has been in place.
The United States on Tuesday pressed forward with plans to slap steep punitive duties on wind turbine towers imported from China at prices deemed unfairly low, even as officials welcomed a high-level Chinese delegation for trade and economic talks. The U.S. Commerce Department set final anti-dumping duties ranging from 44.99 to 70.63 percent on utility-scale towers manufactured in China and additional countervailing duties of 21.86 to 34.81 percent to combat Chinese government subsidies.
A record amount of wind is being turned into electricity in Colorado this week as the last of 250 turbines started turning at NextEra Energy Resource’s Limon wind farm. The wind is now providing about 17 percent of all the electricity used by Xcel Energy customers — more than four times the national average.
House Speaker John Boehner said yesterday that he’s preparing to bring a “Plan B” bill to the floor that would extend existing tax rates for all but the wealthiest individuals, but aides and lawmakers say the legislation is unlikely to include an extension to the wind production tax credit or other temporary incentives. The bill would extend current tax rates for people who make less than $1 million per year, the Ohio Republican said at a news conference this morning after a meeting of the House Republican Conference. The bill is expected to come to a vote Thursday.
The ongoing war of words over the “fiscal cliff” that intensified yesterday left unanswered one of the most important questions for energy watchers: What will happen to a suite of expired or expiring tax credits? The debate over those incentives, including the wind production tax credit and subsidies to promote energy efficiency and alternative fuels, has largely simmered on the back burner amid the broader debate over across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. That is still the case, although observers continue to believe they have a good chance of being included in a year-end cliff package, if there is one.