End of tax credit could be blow to jobs

BOULDER — Preserving jobs created by the wind-energy industry and renewal of the tax credit that helps finance wind farms should have a greater prominence in the presidential election, industry advocates said at an event in Boulder held Oct. 2.

Juwi Wind LLC, the Boulder-based North American subsidiary of the Juwi Group, an international company that designs, builds and finances wind farms, hosted the event, which advocated extension of the production tax credit.

The production tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year unless it is renewed by Congress and signed into law by the president, provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents/kilowatt-hour for the production of electricity from utility-scale wind turbines. The industry relies on the credit to keep wind-energy cost competitive with fossil fuels while the companies grow, technology improves and wind gains a foothold in electricity production.

The consequences of letting the credit expire would be dire for the renewable-energy industry, said Michael Rucker, chief executive of juwi Wind. More than 37,000 jobs in the United States could be lost, including 6,000 in Colorado, Rucker said. The numbers come from a report from Navigant Consulting cited by the American Wind Energy Association.

The impact would be felt by turbine manufacturers, their suppliers, researchers and engineers, said Rucker, whose company employs 20 people in Boulder. Renewable Energy Systems Americas is headquartered in Broomfield. On Oct. 3, Vestas Wind Systems AS announced it was consolidating three research and development offices, including one in Louisville, to one site in Brighton. Vestas also has large manufacturing plants in Colorado.

The fate of the production tax credit has become a political issue, and Rucker hopes the issue will gain prominence in the presidential campaign as the candidates discuss jobs and energy policy. President Obama, a Democrat, supports a long-term renewal of the production tax credit, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney opposes it.

While Rucker did not do much politicking, he said people who follow energy policy know which politicians support renewable energy.

“You can’t ignore the fact that the Romney campaign specifically came out against the production tax credit,” Rucker said.

Not too long ago, the credit was not a political issue. The last major extension of the credit was signed by President George W. Bush, a Republican. Currently, a majority of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including two of the state’s four Republican congressmen, support the credit.

“We want to bring people’s attention to what the effects of not extending the tax credits are, especially for the Colorado economy,” Rucker said. “We don’t see it as a partisan issue. We see it as the best choice for the nation.”

Sen. Mark Udall’s office was represented by Brandon Rattiner, the office’s Denver metro area regional director. Udall, D-Colo., has supported the credit in 19 speeches on the Senate floor over the past few months.

“Passing the PTC should be a no-brainer. In Colorado alone, the wind-energy industry supports 6,000 jobs and 75,000 nationwide. Vestas alone has production plants in Windsor, Pueblo and Brighton. These are good-paying jobs that rely on our highly educated and skilled workers,” Rattiner said.

“Were it not for the PTC, these jobs would be in China, South America or somewhere else overseas,” he said.

The Renewable Energy Initiative, also based in Boulder, cosponsored the event.

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