WindAction Editorials filed under Taxes & Subsidies
1. What is the wind production tax credit (PTC)?
As the White House and Congress negotiate a massive Covid-19 stimulus, the wind and solar industries are pushing for more PTC/ITC extensions. They are shameful and our political class can't be trusted. This letter to Congressional leaders emphasizes why the subsidies should expire as promised in 2015.
In another month, the wind PTC will finally expire after twenty-seven years. Taxpayers will still be on the hook for billions more in PTCs through the next decade but the burden should not increase. In that time, the wind industry has grown significantly reaching over 100,000 MW and now mainstreamed into the US electricity market. Big Wind is no longer a nascent industry, but one that must stand on its own, whether it's ready or not.
The US Treasury estimates the PTC will cost taxpayers $40.12 billion in the period from 2018–2027, making it, by far, the most expensive energy subsidy under current tax law. ...After billions in public hand-outs, the wind industry has never been able to stand on its own and there’s no reason to believe this will change. Tax credits are now a required component of the industry’s economics. The outcome of an expired PTC is evident: wind installations will crawl to a near stop.
The Senate bill should serve as the PTC/ITC blueprint for the final bill. Any changes recommended by the conference committee should be addressed swiftly and fall within the envelope of the Senate bill. This is an important step, but only first step, toward a level-playing-field between electrical energies that will, longer term, improve grid reliability coast-to-coast, border-to-border.
The IRS flouted Congressional intent …and knowingly transformed the PTC phase-out into a 5-year PTC extension. Without reform, the PTC tax will grow to an additional $32+ billion in the next decade, not including the credits awarded projects already operating.
Big wind’s complaint that the language reneges on a previous deal is entirely unfounded. The so-called ‘deal’ AWEA is trying to preserve … was a backroom negotiation between industry and Obama-era IRS lawyers to craft guidance that went well beyond the statute. Congress is finally taking corrective action. ...[T]he GOP tax bill is headed in the right direction on wind energy development. But if the goal was to simplify tax legislation, the GOP should go further and repeal the PTC altogether.”
Market conditions back in 1992 no longer exist. Big wind no longer needs the Production Tax Credit, and certainly cannot justify the extraordinary benefits received [3.5¢/kWh pre-tax]. Retaining the subsidy in light of lower installation costs and increased production serves only to further distort the market and bestow a bounty on big wind that far exceeds what 1992 lawmakers could ever have envisioned.
This essay is the second in a series aimed at exposing abuses by the Obama administration in its effort to force wind power on the public. Here we examine the rules governing the wind production tax credit (the PTC)—in particular, the IRS guidance for PTC eligibility— and changes the new Trump administration might consider.
After billions in public hand-outs spanning nearly four decades, big wind has never been able to stand on its own and there's no reason to believe this will change. ...If yanking the handouts causes the industry to flat line then so be it. The US has elected a businessman at the helm who understands what it means to cut your losses. It’s time we did exactly that!
According to the American Wind Energy Association, more than 15,000 MW of new wind is currently under construction or in advanced stages of development. Under the IRS’ loose rules, the number of MWs eligible for the full subsidy could easily double that. Yet, this change was not subject to public input or any type of budget scoring.
Our representatives know that the PTC is wildly unpopular. They’ve heard all the arguments. ..A stand-alone floor vote on the PTC would have put an end to its nonsense, but Congress preferred instead to coddle this costly giveaway safely in the corpulent folds of other, must-pass extender language.
Contrary to claims about fossil fuel being heavily subsidized for decades, no traditional source of electric generation has ever received an open-ended, unlimited subsidy like the PTC for every kilowatt hour of energy put on the grid.
Clearly, the interpretation of what constitutes “begin construction” is important, yet at no time during the two years since the PTC was extended with this wording did the IRS bother to seek public comment under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), the federal statute that requires federal agencies to provide notice and an opportunity to comment before promulgating rules.
The debate is no longer about the fear of change or aesthetics. It’s about preserving the health, safety, and welfare of communities from developers hell-bent on sticking turbines on every free acre with transmission access no matter who’s in the way. More than twelve active lawsuits are pending against wind projects in as many states, and more are sure to follow.
The wind PTC/ITC expired on January 1, 2014. The Senate Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act which would extend the wind PTC/ITC and dozens of other tax credits/deductions worth close to $85 billion. Senator Harry Reid does not have the votes to bring EXPIRE to the floor of the Senate and has, thus far, refused all efforts to amend the bill. He is aware that Senate Republicans, in part, intend to remove the PTC/ITC from the bill. Senator Reid has made bold promises to the wind crowd about votes during the lame duck session to bring back the PTC/ITC but he is not in a strong position to deliver on his promises. Democrats are on the defensive and may well lose control of the Senate come November. If that happens, there is no certainty the wind PTC will make a return.
The U.S. Department of Energy is touting that wind energy pricing dropped precipitously in 2013, but the report cited by the DOE presents a different story. We examine some of the trends in wind energy development in this latest essay.
Last month when GE's Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Bornstein, complained that rules defining 'begin construction' were still too vague and holding up delivery of 400 to 500 turbines. "We expect that clarification to come from the Treasury ...We’ve seen that clarification and we think it is helpful.”
By the end of 2013, wind energy represented 94% of the fuel used to meet New York State's RPS mandate. Twenty wind power plants are operating in the state with an installed capacity of 1,730 megawatts. We've been tracking NY's wind production figures since 2009 and its performance has not improved.
Negative prices are not the goal of any healthy economy, yet the PTC fosters this behavior at the expense of other, reliable generation. Building more infrastructure to correct for this problem is exactly the wrong thing to do.