December 29, 2013 in Region

Expiring tax credit has wind farms in limbo

George Plaven East Oregonian
 

PENDLETON, Ore. – Northwest wind developers are once again grappling with uncertainty as the federal tax credit for renewable energy production is set to expire on Tuesday.

It’s a familiar challenge for the industry. The credit, which pays 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by wind, nearly expired a year ago until it was extended by Congress as part of a deal to avoid the dreaded “fiscal cliff.”

Advocacy groups are now lobbying to keep the incentives intact, but opponents argue federal wind subsidies are inequitable and unfairly burden taxpayers across the country.

Amy Baird, spokeswoman for the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, said there is plenty of potential for wind farms in the region, if they can have stable, long-term federal policy. Oregon has already invested more than $9 billion in renewable energy over the last decade, according to the organization.

Allowing the production tax credit to expire only discourages that positive growth, Baird said.

“Having stable, long-term policy creates a safe business environment,” she said. “We hope (the tax credit) continues to be part of our policy in the state.”

In years past, only finished projects could qualify for the credit. When lawmakers extended the program in 2012, they allowed projects to qualify so long as developers had either started construction or invested 5 percent of its cost before the end of the year.

A database provided by the Renewable Northwest Project shows no projects currently under construction in Oregon, though 11 have been approved and nine more are in the permitting process.

State Director Sarah Higginbotham said Environment Oregon is urging the congressional delegation to make extending the credit its first priority in 2014.

“Oregon wants clean power, and renewable energy on the ground,” she said. “It’s providing very big environmental benefits in the state, and we don’t want to leave those things on the table.”


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