As the election of 2012 fades into the past, issues that will face the Vermont Legislature (and other state legislatures) in 2013 are coming into focus. A critical and contentious one is wind power and the choices we make to deploy this technology as we move towards a diversified, low-cost and clean energy future -- or not.
I have worked in the wind energy industry for over three decades. I became and have remained involved because of my long-held concerns about energy security and environmental stewardship. I am convinced that wind is part of the solution. I have seen the boom and bust brought on by erratic federal policies, such as the current looming expiration of the Product Tax Credit (PTC) set to expire at the end of December.
The PTC is a tax incentive that catalyzes $15 billion in annual investment in manufacturing facilities, jobs, wind energy services and local economic activity. It only pays off when a project is generating energy and income.
Within Vermont and elsewhere, there is an active, sometimes acrimonious debate on wind power, particularly with regard to siting. Some facts and counter-facts are being marshaled in these debates -- many having nothing to do with genuine and legitimate siting concerns. Now, opponents of utility-scale projects on ridgelines in Vermont are calling for an end to the PTC. In doing so, they stand with right-wing groups like the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council -- both funded by the Koch Brothers -- who are working against a more reliable, low-cost, and clean energy future in defense of the fossil fuel industry where they built their fortunes.
The extension of the PTC is a tax policy issue like all the other subsidies, tax and otherwise, which the coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear industries receive. The PTC levels the playing field and gives wind a chance to grow to the point where it can contribute a clean, indigenous and low-cost source of electricity. When opponents in Vermont paint wind as part of the problem, they play into the hands of climate deniers, energy ideologues and fossil-fuel interests.
This election season wind was on the ballot in many states. Around the country an overwhelming number of gubernatorial and congressional candidates who voiced support for wind -- particularly those from Midwest states that have seen the economic benefits -- won their races. Why? The supporters of wind energy finally spoke up.
It’s time for the quiet supporters of wind energy in Vermont, and elsewhere -- the 80-plus percent of us -- to let our elected officials know where we stand. It’s time to let them know we’re opposed to a wind moratorium and in support of implementing the Comprehensive Energy Plan. Given what’s at stake, we can no longer afford to be silent.
A version of this article originally appeared in the October 10, 2012 Burlington Free Press (Vermont).