Starbucks steps up for wind energy; Congress yawns
On Tuesday, a group of 19 companies, using the silly name of BICEP, sent a letter to congressional leaders. The ask? Save the wind production tax credit (PTC), due to expire at the end of the year — a key incentive for the wind power industry.
The letter reads, in part:
In the past decade American businesses have significantly ramped up their purchase of American wind energy. For consumers of wind electricity, the economic benefits of the PTC are tremendous. Electricity rates, which reflect marginal costs for power plant operations and fuel prices, consistently decrease when wind enters the market. Because wind prices can be locked in up front, businesses incorporating wind into their energy portfolios are better equipped to hedge market volatility in traditional fuels markets caused by supply shocks. We are concerned that allowing the PTC to expire will immediately raise prices for the renewable electricity we buy today.
Signed by Starbucks, Levi Strauss, Johnson & Johnson, and Pitney Bowes, among others, the letter was no doubt promptly placed into a manila folder and then filed away forever, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style.
We learned last week that the tax credit is all but dead — thanks to the inaction of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and, of course, to a completely intransigent House.
The companies that signed the letter are lobbying to save a few bucks on their electricity bills. Wind companies, meanwhile, are lobbying to avoid financial ruin and massive layoffs. For many, it’s too late.
For example, today the AP reported:
Wind energy equipment manufacturer Siemens Energy Inc. will lay off 615 workers in Iowa, Kansas, and Florida in part because Congress has not renewed a tax credit for wind energy, the company said Tuesday.
Siemens said the biggest job losses will come in Fort Madison, Iowa, where 407 workers at a wind-turbine blade factory will be out of work. …
The company blamed difficult market conditions due to lack of congressional action on a wind energy tax credit as well as increased use of natural gas-fired power plants. It said it has worked for the past 10 months to address the uncertainties but needed to adjust its work force until demand for turbines returns.
Reid’s home state of Nevada has 153 megawatts of wind projects currently under construction [PDF], with 3,913 megawatts on deck. I don’t know if all of those projects will move forward in the absence of the PTC.
I would imagine Reid doesn’t either.