PTC bill advances in US Senate

A key Senate committee has approved a bill that includes a two-year extension to the expired Production Tax Credit (PTC) so critical to the US wind industry, boosting the chances that the PTC will be revived.

The powerful Senate Finance Committee today voted on a bipartisan basis to approve the so-called tax extenders bill, which includes more than 50 tax breaks that were allowed to expire at the beginning of the year -- including the PTC.

The PTC did not appear in a draft version of the bill earlier this week, but it was included after a push from three senators, including the Republican Charles Grassley from wind-heavy Iowa.

The bill must still be approved by the full Congress, where its chances of success are murky. Observers believe the bill may not get much of a look-in until after key mid-term elections in November, with Republicans hopeful they can retake the Senate.

Yet the inclusion of the PTC in the bill, and the bill's passage, nevertheless provide a “critical signal” to the US wind sector, says Tom Kiernan, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association.

If approved, the bill would see the PTC extended by two years, meaning that all projects that enter construction by the end of 2015 would qualify.

Michael Bennet, a Democrat representing Colorado, and one of the trio of senators that pushed to have the PTC included in the bill, calls the PTC “an economic engine" in his state, which hosts four Vestas factories.

Supporters of the wind industry, including President Barack Obama, would prefer to see the PTC made permanent. But given the hyper-combative nature of US politics at present, many have resigned themselves to a seemingly never-ending series of extensions.

The 21-year-old PTC has expired and been extended nine times.