Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Wind-power perils

America's fastest-growing form of energy, wind power, will fall off a fiscal cliff of its own if Congress allows a production tax credit for the industry to expire Dec. 31. Lawmakers should renew the credit instead.

Ohio ranks fourth among states for jobs supported by the wind industry. Our state has more than 50 facilities that make parts for the wind industry, including several in Lucas, Williams, and Henry counties.

Over the past four years, wind power has accounted for more than 40 percent of new power installations in the United States and Europe — more than coal and nuclear power combined. This year’s new installed capacity for wind power, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says, could surpass that of natural gas, the nation’s leader in 2010 and 2011. The wind industry got a major push in 2012 from developers who expedited work to qualify for the tax credit, the agency said.

Other power producers have gotten government subsidies for decades. Wind’s tax credits go back to 1980, but have been sporadic. When Congress let them expire, wind industry business plummeted by as much as 93 percent.

In a letter to members of Congress this month, the American Wind Energy Association proposed a full-credit renewal of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour for projects that begin construction in 2013, followed by 10 percent less each year from 2014 through 2018. The credit would expire in 2019. The credits lasts for the first 10 years that utility-scale wind turbines operate.

The proposed phase-down is a reasonable compromise for an industry that has inspired private investment of more than $15 billion annually over the past five years, building its national work force to 78,000 jobs. If the credit expires, an industry study predicts 37,000 of those jobs would be lost in the first quarter of 2013.

Wind supplies 3 percent of America’s energy needs, but the combined output from it and other forms of renewable energy was less than 1 percent just a few years ago. It provides 22 percent of South Dakota’s electricity and is in double digits for four other states.

The federal tax credit strengthens an Ohio law that requires 12.5 percent of the state’s electricity to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2025. The law provides market stability to other renewable energy sectors, such as solar power, which means even more jobs and economic development in northwest Ohio.

The federal tax credit for wind has led to the construction of 120 large-scale wind farms across the United States. Among them is Ohio’s largest wind-energy farm, the Blue Creek facility in Van Wert County.

Congress shouldn’t pull the plug on the wind power production tax credit, at least not without a transition plan in place.

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