US Senate recesses without PTC vote

The US Senate recessed through the end of May without a vote on extending several dozen federal tax credits for a range of industries including two that have driven growth in onshore and offshore wind.

Leaders of clean energy groups and industries that serve the sector lamented the move although lawmakers’ inaction came as little surprise. A group of Republican senators last week ago had halted movement on the so-called bipartisan EXPIRE Act unless they could strip out the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) for wind.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat closely allied with the White House, refused to go along and the bill stalled. He did not schedule a vote after the Senate resumes work in June.

“We hope that the Senate quickly takes up the EXPIRE Act upon their return so we can focus on increasing production instead of an uncertain market,” says John Purcell vice president of Leeco Steel’s energy division at Leeco Steel in Pennsylvania, which supplies plate steel to the wind industry.

The PTC is based on the electrical output of a wind farm - $23 per MWh, inflation-adjusted for a project’s first decade in operation.

Also in limbo is the investment tax credit which reduces federal income taxes by 30% for qualified wind asset owners based on a project’s capital investment. This has been beneficial for the fledgling US offshore industry.

The American Wind Energy Association estimates the PTC and ITC have driven $118bn wind investment to date.

On Tuesday, more than 150 leading business associations, farm and manufacturing groups nationwide sent a letter to all 100 senators urging them to support the tax-extenders package.

“The lack of timely action to extend these provisions injects instability and uncertainty into the economy and weakens confidence in the employment marketplace,” they wrote.

“Moreover, the extension of the expired provisions should not be delayed until the end of the year since companies are making decisions right now related to taxes that will have an immediate impact on the economy,” they added.

While the Senate is still expected to pass the EXPIRE bill, the House of Representatives is not likely to act on its version until after 4 November national elections.