Executives from the U.S. hydropower, geothermal and biomass power industries called Wednesday for the passage of a congressional bill that would extend production tax credits to all renewable-energy projects.
The leaders were referring to H.R. 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011. The bill has been offered by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and has drawn bipartisan support from more than 60 co-sponsors.
Failure to pass the bill, the executives said, would put thousands of jobs across the country at risk, stall active energy projects and make it very likely that few new projects would get the funding necessary to begin.
Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Assn., said that projects are already being hurt even though the current tax benefits assisting his industry do not run out until 2013.
"With a project lead time of four years or more, the geothermal industry has already reached its so-called tax credit cliff," Gawell said, "even if the legal deadline is 2013. This is not just undermining projects in 16 states with new geothermal power projects, it is also costing vendors lost orders in over 46 states that supply geothermal projects."
Some of the geothermal projects that could be affected include 700 megawatts under development in California that the association said would not be completed by the end of 2013. The California projects will produce about 1,000 construction jobs.
Gawell was joined on a teleconference call by Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Assn.; Mark Stover, corporate affairs vice president for Hydro Green Energy; Jonathan M. Weisgall, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for the MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.; and Robert Cleaves, president and chief executive of the Biomass Power Assn.
Cleaves said that these renewable-energy projects were employing "thousands of Americans, many of whom live and work in rural areas that were hardest hit by our nation's recent recession. To continue to employ these hard-working Americans, and to grow our industry by making it a stable, long-term opportunity for investments, we need the production tax credit to be extended beyond 2013."
Ciocci said that 300,000 Americans were employed in hydropower-related work, adding that "the hydropower industry supports jobs and low-cost clean energy around the country, from the Southeast to the Northwest. Our industry has huge potential to contribute even more to America’s economy and clean energy future, adding as much as 60,000 MW of new capacity by 2025."
The executives also sent a letter to congressional leaders that argued that the tax incentives "have been tremendously successful in spurring construction of new projects and the deployment of new technologies."
The letter added that the tax incentives were also "expanding the supply of affordable, clean electricity to the grid, supporting significant local economic opportunities, and creating tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in regions of the country not usually associated with renewable energy."