Senate to take up PTC bill 'next week'

The US Senate is likely to take up -- and pass -- a bill next week that would extend the Production Tax Credit to wind projects entering construction by the end of 2015, says Tom Kiernan, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association.

“There’s a very good probability it will come up next week,” Kiernan tells Recharge.

“We think we’ve got well over the minimum 60 [votes] to get it passed through the Senate – we’re quite optimistic,” he says.

The swift passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate of the so-called tax extenders bill – which includes several dozen tax breaks affecting various industries, including the PTC – would “continue the momentum for the PTC in this Congress” ahead of what will be a much more difficult slog in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Kiernan says.

The House “potentially” could take up the issue this summer or fall, but Kiernan acknowledges the possibility that it may not do so until after November’s mid-term elections, after which pro-renewables President Barack Obama will be considered a lame duck.

Many observers expect the House will not move forward with the PTC until after November's elections, in which Republicans are expected to maintain their majority in the House and perhaps regain control of the Senate.

Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is not expected to follow his Democratic counterpart in the Senate in extending a raft of tax breaks simultaneously, but will likely hold hearings to select a limited amount that could proceed.

Kiernan’s comments came after his speech at the opening of AWEA’s annual Windpower conference in Las Vegas, during which he implored the estimated 80,000 Americans working in the wind industry to become more politically involved.

AWEA’s goals of doubling US wind capacity by 2020, and ensuring the country derives 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030, “are not going to be obtained unless we create more stable, sound policy frameworks at the federal and state levels”, he said.

“We need to get the PTC extended."