United States

United States

AWEA faces member revolt over PTC focus

UNITED STATES: More cracks have emerged in the once-united front of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as it faces further criticism over its campaign for a production tax credit (PTC) extension.

Big wind buyer: Excel Energy wants to see the PTC replaced with different credits
Big wind buyer: Excel Energy wants to see the PTC replaced with different credits

Following the granting of the extension (see previous page), AWEA has emphasised a new tack for 2013 - getting back to the work of putting steel in the ground.

However, with the extension effectively only lasting between 18 and 24 months, and projects only eligible if they begin construction in 2013, AWEA will need to start lobbying later this year for a further extension. It is calling for a PTC phase-out by 2018.

AWEA's focus has drawn criticism from some members, with a prominent executive from utility Xcel Energy saying last month that his company was reviewing its AWEA membership because of the lobby group's "militant" focus on the PTC.

The criticism followed the departure of AWEA chief executive Denise Bode, who resigned in December, having spearheaded AWEA's PTC campaign.

Unhappy utility

Minnesota-based Xcel, with more than 3.3 million electricity customers in eight states, buys more wind power than any other firm in the US. "It's our concern that (AWEA continues) to represent the interests of developers to the exclusion of customers," John O'Donnell, Excel's vice-president of federal affairs, told the National Journal political magazine in January.

Near the end of 2012, Xcel had broken ranks and lobbied for a PTC replacement - a "customer renewable credit" and an investment tax credit. The former would be awarded to utilities to cover what they say are the added costs of integrating more wind and solar onto the grid. An Xcel spokesman declined to explain the credit.

Xcel will continue to lobby for the consumer renewable credit this year.

An Xcel spokesman also declined to comment on reports that it will not need more wind energy until 2019 at the earliest.

In August, AWEA ousted another member, Exelon, because it was lobbying vociferously against the PTC. Exelon has continued its campaign. In December it slammed AWEA's proposal for a PTC phase-out as a "non-starter". Chicago-based Exelon is the US's 11th largest utility buyer of wind power and the biggest nuclear-power operator in the US.

Damage limitation

Following O'Donnell's comments, Xcel and AWEA tried to minimise the damage caused to their relationship. In a statement, Xcel chairman Ben Fowke said: "We are pleased to see the PTC extended. The PTC has provided - and now will continue to provide - significant benefits to our customers." AWEA said: "AWEA continues to greatly value Xcel as a member ... We've worked with Xcel on their concerns and will continue to ... we're always open to discussion."

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