The wind energy industry won a key victory Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee that extended an important tax credit for renewables.
The tax extenders bill, approved 23-3 in committee, now progresses to the full Senate, where it faces another round of votes. A companion bill also must advance in the House to extend the wind credits through next year.
The wind energy industry remains optimistic that it will clear both chambers, saying the wind credits receive bipartisan support in more than 70 percent of congressional districts where the wind industry thrives.
"This is a big step in the right direction," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. It shows that the committee "recognizes that the vast majority of American voters support these policies and want them continued."
"We urge the full Senate and the House of Representatives to follow the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan lead, and quickly pass this tax extenders package, which will continue to grow American jobs and heavy manufacturing, and support rural economic growth," Kiernan added.
The Finance Committee bill includes more than 50 tax measures that had expired, including the renewable energy Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit that provides incentives for building wind farms. The bill would keep the tax credits in place through 2016.
The wind association notes that senior Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are stepping up to defend the wind credits. Grassley penned an op-ed on his web page last week, called "Don't Mess with Renewables," that supports extending the wind credits.
"As a senior member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I pressed for renewal of several tax provisions that are key to Iowa's economy and environment, including the Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit," Grassley wrote. "Both drive growth of renewable energy, including wind, solar, biomass, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel."
He also noted that "expensing and bonus depreciation provisions" in the extenders bill "also generate significant economic growth and job creation."
In June, nearly 100 renewable energy companies sent letters to lawmakers on the Hill explaining the importance of passing the tax extenders bill.
The wind association notes that more than 70 percent of congressional districts "contain operating wind turbines, wind-related factories or both," making support for the industry a bipartisan concern and one that promotes economic growth and jobs.
The association said that in 2013, when the wind credits were allowed to expire, wind energy development dropped 92 percent. The expiration of the subsidy caused a loss of 30,000 jobs across the industry.
"After Congress renewed the PTC, the U.S. wind energy industry added 23,000 jobs the following year, bringing the total to 73,000 at the end of 2014," the group said.
Grassley says the wind industry "puts people to work in good-paying jobs, creates a new revenue stream in lease payments for farmers, fosters an economic ripple effect that revitalizes rural communities, lessens dependence on foreign energy, displaces pollution and expands the tax base to support local public services."