Wind energy is more affordable than ever, and new installations across the country are saving consumers money on their electric bills, as utilities rush to lock in long-term favourable rates, said the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in its Q3 results report. The year will finish strong, somewhere between the industry’s high point of 2009 and the recent dip in 2010 amid turmoil in federal tax policy, it said.
“This is what a successful business looks like with stable tax policy. Utilities are locking in a great deal for their electric customers while it’s available. We’re keeping rates down all across the U.S., even in the heart of the South,” said Denise Bode, AWEA’s CEO. She mentions recent wind power purchases by the Southern Company in Alabama, Austin Energy in Texas, and Xcel in Colorado as examples.
The U.S. wind industry installed just over 1,200 megawatts (MW) in Q3, and about 3,360 MW on the year so far – but has more than 8,400 MW under construction. That is more than in any quarter since 2008, as the federal Production Tax Credit has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment. “This shows what we’re capable of: adding new, affordable electric generation,” said Bode.”Traditional tax incentives are working. There’s a lot of business right now, people are employed, and manufacturers are looking to expand here in the U.S.”
Years of technological innovations and an influx of U.S.-based manufacturing have driven down the cost of wind power energy and saved further on transportation. Including incentives, which all forms of energy get, U.S. wind is now close to cost-competitive with all other energy sources – even shale gas at today’s unsustainable prices. Even so, policy uncertainty has many leading wind developers saying they have no projects scheduled for 2013, which is starting to threaten both development companies and the U.S. wind energy supply chain.
“In hard economic times we’re delivering affordable power to ratepayers,” Bode stressed. “A lot of people will be surprised by how inexpensive wind energy rates are now, because it’s happened so fast.” But she cautioned, “We could lose all these consumer benefits and a brand new, growing manufacturing sector if Congress allows the Production Tax Credit to expire.”
Bode said she’ll be asking lawmakers, “Do you want to raise rates on consumers in a bad economy by raising taxes on wind? Do you want to be the one to say that we just shut down a new manufacturing sector, and an industry that could support 500,000 jobs in less than 20 years, just as it was getting a foothold in the U.S. market?”