At issue most immediately is whether Congress writes a tax bill this year. If that occurs, then the lion's share of the battle will have been won, says Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). "I think if there's a tax bill, we're well positioned," he says. And the likelihood of tax legislation this year, he gauges, is somewhere between 60 to 80%. Securing the extension is AWEA's main legislative goal this year.
The danger, though, is that the PTC could well become a political football, he says. Not only is the president supporting it in his 1999 budget proposal, he also included it in his climate change package. That could be enough to mark it, so opposed are some anti-Clinton politicians to any form of climate change legislation. Fierce opposition is also coming from lobbyists of the powerful utility Southern California Edison, which buys electricity from wind farms in Tehachapi and San Gorgonio and which has reportedly put up quite a fight to halt any PTC extension. The PTC amounts to $0.015/kWh (adjusted for inflation) and is set to expire at the end of June of next year.
Despite the pockets of opposition, support for the PTC is mounting. The Edison Electric Institute, which represents utilities, is endorsing a five year extension for wind and biomass. The number of house co-sponsors of the PTC has more than doubled, from 18 to 40, notes AWEA. And supporters in the House of Representatives now include 12 members of the crucial and powerful Ways and Means Committee, which initiates tax legislation. In addition, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) this winter adopted a resolution supporting a five year extension.