Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Prioritizing Energy Efficient Renewables (PEER) Act

Jun 27: U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced H.R.2539, the Prioritizing Energy Efficient Renewables (PEER) Act. The legislation would permanently extend the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind, geothermal, hydro, and marine power and eliminate the tax credit for intangible drilling costs, the domestic manufacturing tax credit for oil and gas, and the percentage depletion credit for oil and gas wells. The legislation is revenue positive, as the approximately $1.6 billion cost of the PTC last year is outweighed by the approximately $3.7 billion in annual costs of the three oil and gas credits.
    Rep. Schakowsky was joined by 17 colleagues in introducing the legislation, which is supported by major environmental organizations including Earthjustice, Environment America, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Wilderness Society. Rep. Schakowsky said, "As the President highlighted this week, global warming is real and its consequences are devastating. The tremendous challenge of climate change also offers an opportunity. We should invest in renewable energy technologies that will help our country reduce hazardous carbon emissions, driving the growth of good American jobs, improving public health, and leaving behind a safe climate for our children and grandchildren. I look forward to moving the PEER Act forward as we discuss our country's energy future."

    Dave Hamilton, Director of Clean Energy at the Sierra Club commented saying, "We thank Representative Schakowsky for introducing the Prioritizing Energy Efficient Renewables Act of 2013. It's high time we provide renewable energy the same certainty of federal support that big oil and gas have enjoyed for decades. The Schakowsky bill would make a commitment to developing clean energy sources while ending unnecessary support for highly profitable and polluting fossil fuels. Wind, solar, and other clean energy innovators should not have to scrap for federal investment every year, while oil and gas fat cats sit back and enjoy unfair tax breaks while racking up billions in profits."

    Without Congressional action, the PTC will again expire at year's end. The tax credit, which provides up to 2.3 cents per kWh of energy produced, has driven clean energy and economic growth nationwide. The PTC has been especially important for wind energy. Last year wind power represented 44 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in the U.S., leading all other sources. Wind also employs about 75,000 Americans, and the American Wind Energy Association believes it could employ 500,000 and supply 20 percent – up from 3.5 percent today -- of U.S. electricity by 2030.

    The bill is timely considering the President's Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13] and developments in the wind energy market. On June 28, Nordex USA, Inc. that it will cease manufacturing wind turbine housings at its factory in Jonesboro, Arkansas, largely because of unpredictable U.S. policies, the U.S. wind energy industry renewed its call for a predictable tax policy to keep U.S. manufacturing jobs. Dr. J├╝rgen Zeschky, CEO of the German-based, Nordex SE, explained, "This was an extremely difficult decision for Nordex. We are reacting to the weakened demand from the US market, brought on by the unpredictable extensions of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), and the resulting low utilization rate of our US assembly plant. We see great potential in the US and Latin American markets and are committed to serving those markets and increasing our installed base. With this decision we also increase our flexibility to react to US demand for our turbines out of one single plant in Rostock, Germany. We will be maintaining the extensive expertise in sales, engineering, service, project management, training and support which we have built at our Chicago and Jonesboro locations to continue the growth we have achieved through these challenging times."

    Rob Gramlich, Senior Vice President for Public Policy of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said, "Wind power has been good for Arkansas consumers and businesses, and wind power could do a lot more for the state if we had predictable national policies to create a stable business environment. That starts by keeping the federal Production Tax Credit in place to allow wind energy to scale up as rapidly as it can. Nordex said uncertainty is one of the main reasons for their business decision to cease building wind turbine nacelles in Jonesboro. Arkansas has positioned itself to take advantage of the wind industry's growth in the region, which is providing low-cost electricity in Arkansas and exporting energy east. And consumers are saving, because wind power holds down the overall cost of electricity on fixed-price contracts. But predictable policies to create a stable business environment are critical, especially if we want to maintain this new U.S. manufacturing sector and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. That will take action by Congress."
    Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) responded to the news today by saying, "I've always supported the renewable energy production tax credit. Unfortunately, some in Congress believe we should cut funding for renewable energy. I hope we'll consider a long-term production tax credit as part of comprehensive tax reform. These companies need more certainty than a one-year extension." Senator John Boozman (R-AR) commented, "Promising industries like wind turbine production are particularly sensitive to this uncertainty as Washington has been unable to tell them what their tax burden will be beyond a very short term. You can't make major planning decisions from a business perspective on that timeframe. There must be a longer term extension in place so that companies like Nordex and Mitsubishi can grow and put Arkansans to work. I support the credit, have voted for the extensions, and would like to see the wind tax credit authorized for a longer time period to provide certainty to business owners." Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe (D) said, "I have been saying for years that there must be stable tax policy with this kind of intense capital investment. Congress has totally failed to provide one, wavering year-to-year on the wind energy tax credit. This indecisiveness is costing Arkansas, and America, jobs."

    The Wilderness Society issued a release on Rep. Schakowsky's bill saying, "Without a long-term extension of the PTC, we will see investments in wind energy projects dry up and they will be abandoned across the country. This would be disastrous for the renewable energy industry and the economy as a whole as the wind energy industry is a vital, growing part of the economy. Oil and gas development is a major issue confronting our public lands. But it is important to remember that renewable energy on public lands have large impacts as well. That is why The Wilderness Society has long advocated a "Smart from the Start" policy when it comes to energy development on public lands. While we certainly support a transition from a fossil fuel based economy to one that is focused on clean and renewable energy, as an organization we are continuing to make sure that these renewable energy projects are directed to low impact places that do not spoil our wild lands and important habitats. This bill displays the folly of giving tax breaks to an industry that has claimed over a trillion dollars in profits over the last decade but it also helps a growing industry that is moving our economy away from a fossil fuels based one to a clean energy one."

    Access a release from Rep. Schakowsky (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2539 (click here). Access a release from Nordex (click here). Access a release from AWEA (click here). Access a release from the Wilderness Society with links to further information (click here). [#Energy/Wind, #Energy/Renewable]
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