As the clock strikes midnight on Dec 31, 2012, more than 37,000 people in the U.S. wind energy industry will have to start looking for new careers. The industry is all set to lose half of its 75,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2013 if Congress does not renew the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) which expires at the end of this year.
A lot of customers have been rushing to get their wind turbines installed before the end of the year to ensure they get the PTC, and this has ironically resulted in a huge boom in the industry even as it faces an existential crisis.
New wind capacity as of Nov 30 hit 6,519 megawatts – more than the natural gas additions and a lot more than coal additions. New Energy Finance estimates the amount of wind capacity added this year could reach 12 gigawatts.
If Congress does not renew the PTC, the estimate for next year is 1.5 gigawatts – a staggering 88 percent drop that will just about kill the 500 factories which are supplying the wind industry.
Thousands of jobs have already been lost this year, and new investments are at a complete standstill while Congress tilts at the windmills.
The largest corporate consumers of renewable power have written to Congress. Another letter was sent by 118 conservation groups. The Western Governors’ Association sent a letter, and so did a coalition of lieutenant governors.
A slew of newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the Canon City (Colo.) Daily Record and the Scranton (Pa.) Times-Tribune have published editorial endorsements asking Congress to renew the PTC.
With the clock ticking down on their jobs, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) finally had to resort to putting little kids of wind industry workers in a video to implore Congress not to take away their jobs.
Matt and Sarah Allsup and their children Tiffany, Malia, Dylan, Lucas and Kaidee are shown in front of the Capitol. “Behind the wind mills, there’s families,” says 20-year-old Tiffany Allsup. “And behind those families, we need jobs.”
The U.S. wind industry supported more than 75,000 jobs in 2011. A full 30,000 of those jobs were in manufacturing. There are nearly 500 U.S. factories currently supplying the wind industry. A recent assessment by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that the U.S. could supply 20 percent of the nation’s electricity needs through wind by 2030.
That would support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S., with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry. It would also result in energy-related cost savings ranging from $100 billion to $250 billion through 2030.