"Can Big Wind Wake From Its Recurring Nightmare?"

"As the wind industry clamors to renew a key tax credit (again), industry leaders explore how to break free from the boom-bust cycle the subsidy has them trapped in."

"Jacob Susman is frustrated again. Sitting in the bright green conference room of his company’s trendy industrial office, overshadowed by the Brooklyn Bridge, he’s a clean-cut poster child for the “green economy”: Since 2007, Susman’s OwnEnergy, which installs wind turbines, has grown to be one of the nation’s most prominent wind installers. But he’s plagued by a recurring nightmare: “Every few years the industry has to drop everything for six or nine months and focus exclusively on having the credit passed.”

He’s talking about the Production Tax Credit, the federal subsidy for renewable energy that gives a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour break to wind energy producers. Those pennies add up to about $1 billion per year, no chump change for the burgeoning industry. Proponents of wind energy say since its inception in 1992, the PTC has been a crucial driving force behind the industry’s rapid growth; critics of the PTC (including the fossil-fuel funded American Energy Alliance) say the industry has had ample time to take off its training wheels (never mind that fossil fuel subsidies historically run about 13 times higher than renewables).

The subsidy has become a touchstone issue in the presidential campaign for windy swing states like Iowa and Colorado: Mitt Romney has referred to the PTC as a 'stimulus boondoggle' and vowed to kill it, while Obama has promised to give the credit his support. Every one to three years, as the PTC reaches its expiration date, it must be taken up, re-debated, re-tweaked, and re-approved by Congress, exposing it to shifting political whims particularly in a general election year where the future party spread is far from certain."

Tim McDonnell reports for Grist October 17, 2012.

Source: Grist, 10/18/2012