Production Tax Credit is common-sense policy

Homegrown, reliable wind power is a good deal for Americans. Wind power helps keep costs low, the lights on, and creates economic benefits in all 50 states. Growing wind power helps us build a more diverse fuel mix and creates competition in the market and that’s good for American consumers and for our economy.

The renewable energy Production Tax Credit levels the playing field for wind power and other renewable forms of energy with subsidies for conventional fuels that have been around since the light switch was invented 100 years ago. Those opposing investment in American wind power (April 17) are really opposing the American prosperity wind helps create.

The Production Tax Credit drives $15 billion a year on average in private investment into the U.S. economy and more than pays for itself in local, state, and federal taxes, over the life of the wind project. With this tax credit in place, wind power has improved its technology and lowered costs 43 percent in just four years and these savings are being passed onto American bill-payers.

The Department of Energy recently released data that showed the eleven states, including Iowa, with the most wind energy have saved the most on their electric bills when compared to all other states. And these savings are made possible not just because wind power’s technology has improved, but because adding wind power displaces the most expensive, least efficient power source on the utility grid - usually an older fossil fuel plant.

Many of us in the heartland of America love wind power and want more of it. Anyone who wants to know what is possible by investing in wind power, they can just look to the states with the most wind power, including Iowa. Today, Iowa is the national leader in wind energy installations and manufacturing, and we rely on wind power for nearly 30 percent of our energy needs (compared to just 7 percent in 2008).

Wind power’s growth here has brought over $9.8 billion of capital investment and up to 7,000 thousand wind related jobs (good enough for third in the nation). Wind power has also become a new drought-resistant, worry-free cash crop. Farmers and other Iowa landowners receive more than $16 million a year in lease payments to host wind turbines on their land.

Wind farms also save water. American farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners, depend on healthy water resources to keep their businesses going. The water savings from wind energy in Iowa will conserve more than 3.2 billion gallons of water a year – that’s the equivalent of 1,040 gallons of water per Iowan. Total American wind power installed helps conserve the equivalent of 276 billion bottles of water.

The formula for this type of success has been copied many times over across the country.

It’s because of these great benefits that polls show a majority of Iowans support wind power.   The most critical component has been elected officials listening to what their constituents want. As polls show time and again, more than 70 percent of Americans support wind power and believe policy should encourage its growth.

It’s not surprising many Republicans support wind power and the market-driven solutions that help make it grow. After all, 71 percent of districts held by Republicans have either a wind turbine or a wind-related manufacturing plant that supports well-paying jobs.

And these figures are more than just numbers down on paper. The return on investment in wind power pays dividends for families and communities across the country. It’s why Sen. Chuck Grassley said “wind energy will stand up next to any other form of energy when given a fair shake.”

While some in Congress have made proposals regarding tax reform, there’s been no substantial movement one way or the other. The tax code remains our nation’s de facto energy policy, and so far it’s worked to grow domestic forms of energy, including the adoption of wind power and other renewables. 

American wind power needs a pro-growth tax policy that drives real, measurable results to keep this American success story going. Extending the Production Tax Credit for as long as possible is the best way forward.

Mike Prior is executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association.