Op-ed by Tom Kiernan: Congress should look to American wind power for climate solutions

This op-ed by AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan originally appeared in The Hill on Wednesday, September 23, 2015.

World leaders and U.S. policymakers are increasingly in the market for climate solutions. A recent example is the 11 House Republicans who introduced a resolution last week calling for “improved environmental stewardship” and for conservatives to take the lead on “bringing our energy sector into the next generation.”

They will quickly find wind energy is one of the biggest, fastest, and cheapest ways the U.S. can cut carbon pollution today and that the value American wind power generates is growing.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently reported that the cost of American wind power has dropped by 66 percent in the last six years. American ingenuity and innovation advancing wind turbine technology are responsible for this impressive decline. Longer blades and lighter materials being manufactured at over 500 factories in 43 states allows this new homegrown industry to more efficiently tap into some of the best wind resources in the world.

Since adding more wind energy to the U.S. electricity mix displaces more expensive, more polluting sources of energy, wind is one of the best ways to conserve our environment and cut costs for American families and businesses.

Wind power saved consumers $1 billion over just two days across the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states during the 2014 “Polar Vortex” event. By supplying 35 percent of the U.S. electricity supply by 2050 wind can save consumers $14 billion a year according to the U.S. Department of Energy and produce cumulative savings on their electric bills of $149 billion.

Zero-emission wind power also helps avoid 26 million cars’ worth of carbon emissions a year and reduced electric sector carbon emissions by over five percent in 2014. Those emission savings can grow an additional 16 percent by 2030 by diversifying our energy mix with more wind.

Carbon-cutting and cost-cutting aren’t the only benefits of growing wind; we can boost our economy and build greater U.S. energy independence too.

Wind already supports well-paying jobs across all 50 states and the wind industry has injected over $100 billion dollars of private investment in the U.S. economy since 2008.

The U.S. is number one in the world in wind energy production and wind supplies more than 25 percent of the electricity generated in Iowa and South Dakota. An updated version of a Bush-administration era report released in March this year says wind could quadruple to supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030.

One of the best ways any member of Congress can support American wind power is to state their support for an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) this year.

Just last week, over 2,000 business voices stated their support for Congress to pass tax extenders this year, which includes an extension of the PTC and ITC, stating a failure to extend these provisions “will inject instability and uncertainty into the economy and weaken confidence in the employment marketplace.” In the letter groups ranging from McDonald’s and Macy’s said “acting promptly on this matter will provide important predictability necessary for economic growth.”

About any one on Wall Street would tell you, stable, predictable policy is critical in order to grow a business. And while Congress hasn’t always been the best at providing businesses with policy certainty, the PTC, first introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in 1992, has made possible the efficiencies, domestic manufacturing and high tech innovations of our modern wind industry.

While the renewable energy tax incentives have bipartisan support for a wide range of reasons, including energy diversity, rural economic development and domestic manufacturing growth, I encourage policymakers to understand that federal tax incentives are also a proven, performance-based and business-friendly way to drive down clean energy costs for consumers and thereby lower the risks associated with our nation’s climate challenge.

We urge all other Members of Congress to extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit this year so we can continue lowering the cost of clean energy while allowing our economy and environment to thrive.

Kiernan is CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

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