May 21, 2018
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Keep priming the wind energy pump

By Herb Sargent, Special to the BDN

Maine is becoming a proving ground for demonstrating that you can create new, lasting private sector jobs faster when working in a meaningful partnership between federal and local governments.

One of our newest success stories has been in wind production and manufacturing. Since 2003, the planning and development of three major wind energy projects in Maine created an average of 240 jobs per year and resulted in nearly $223 million in local spending.

Unfortunately, despite a record demonstrating progress in creating American jobs and cutting our dependence on foreign oil, Congress is poised to allow the highly successful production tax credit to expire, a move that will stop cold tens of thousands of wind energy manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States.

Sparked by targeted federal incentives and private sector investments, the wind energy sector is a success story in Maine and around the country. Wind energy provides unlimited renewable energy, tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, technological innovation, lower energy costs and a reduced dependence on foreign oil. Today, more than 400 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. supply some of the 8,000 components in a wind turbine, and 75,000 Americans work in wind manufacturing and development.

That forward progress is not guaranteed and is now at risk due to Congress’ inaction. While the key federal tax incentive, the wind production tax credit, is a fraction of what the federal government spends to subsidize other forms of energy, it has an outsize influence on private

sector wind investment across the country.

Over each of the last three years, the private sector has invested $10-20 billion in manufacturing and development thanks to the federal government’s $2-3 billion in production tax credits for wind energy. That is a return on investment well worth the effort.

For most of us though, the local impact is what matters the most. According to a December 2011 study by Navigant Consulting, a four-year extension of the wind production tax credit is expected to drive up to $250 million in new economic investment, and would continue the current trend of creating new jobs.

If Congress fails to extend the wind production tax credit, those jobs are gone with the wind.

In previous years when Congress decided not to renew the credit, wind manufacturing and investment dropped between 73 and 93 percent, and thousands of jobs were lost. With energy prices high and employment low, we can’t afford to repeat history.

Our local elected officials and business community are making profound investments to transform Maine into a diverse economy with strong ties to innovative industries. Extending the wind production tax credit makes a small down payment to guarantee that wind technology and manufacturing will be part of our economic future, and that our state investments will continue to create jobs and enrich our local economy for years to come.

I am a business owner, so I tend to look at the bottom line. I like to see a return on my investments, especially a return that allows me to grow my business and create more jobs.

The wind energy production tax credit will help expand businesses in our communities while achieving more energy diversity and energy independence for our country.

The wind production tax credit was originally developed and enacted into law with strong bipartisan support that continues today. It is a successful tax policy that rewards companies only when they develop, build and successfully operate a facility, and makes valuable contributions

to our domestic energy resources. Delaying its renewal would harm the innovative engineering sector where Maine is playing a national leadership role.

Our congressional delegation should stand behind our wind industry and stand up for our jobs by supporting the extension of this important job creation tool. We urge our delegation to support its extension.

Herb Sargent is president and CEO of Sargent Corporation in Bangor.

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