Wind credit extension approved in 'fiscal cliff' deal

The 2.2 cent-per-kilowatt-hour credit for wind-power production had already expired Tuesday. Green and industry groups had pushed hard for its extension, saying letting the credit end would eliminate 37,000 jobs. 

“[W]e thank President Obama and all the members of the House and Senate who had the foresight to extend this successful policy, so wind projects can continue to be developed in 2013 and 2014,” Denise Bode, the departing chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a wind industry group, said in a Tuesday statement.

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Its inclusion marks a defeat for conservative groups and lawmakers, who argued an alteration to the credit amounted to an expansion of the program. 

The fiscal-cliff bill headed to Obama’s desk extends a handful of income tax rates and punts a series of automatic spending cuts for another two months.

The wind credit extension was part of a package of tax extenders passed by the Senate Finance Committee in August. It also benefited other recently expired or lapsed credits, such as incentives for efficient homes, biofuels and other measures.

The fiscal cliff bill also preserved an element to the wind incentive that the industry called crucial: a tweak that allows wind projects under construction, rather than in service, to receive the credit.

The credit’s proponents said that change would enable more developers to take advantage of the program.

Conservatives had resisted the extension and its new language on fiscal grounds, citing a cost of $12.1 billion over 10 years.

While green groups were pleased, some noted the uncertainty that hovered above the credit throughout last year contributed to layoffs in the domestic wind industry.

Industry investment for this year also has plummeted because of the haziness surrounding the credit’s future.

“Given the real benefits we’re seeing from the wind energy industry, this should have been done months ago and this should have been extended beyond just 365 days,” Nicole Lederer, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, said in a Tuesday statement.

The wind industry has floated a phase-out plan for the credit as a way to cement some stability and avoid annual battles to extend the credit.

Securing the extension now sets the table for those discussions.

AWEA in December proposed extending the credit for this year and then ramping it down to end after five more years. As of now, where Capitol Hill stands on that position remains to be seen.

Click here for more of The Hill’s coverage on the fiscal-cliff bill.