Tradewind Energy CEO Rob Freeman shares insight into the new tax bill

The U.S. House of Representatives threatens wind industry development, putting tens of billions of investment and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.  Tradewind Energy CEO, Rob Freeman weighs in on this:

Rob Freeman: U.S. House turns its back on American workers during tax reform

Posted November 9, 2017 05:24 pm

By Rob Freeman


We were just three entrepreneurs with a big idea. We wanted to power Kansas homes and businesses using electricity generated by the wind. Today that idea is fully realized. Over the last 14 years, Tradewind Energy has grown into one of the largest utility-scale wind and solar power development companies in America.


Founded and still headquartered in Kansas City, Tradewind now has 140 employees, and the wind projects we develop create jobs for thousands more across the Kansas City business community, American factories, domestic construction companies and wind project sites. We have completed more than $5 billion of wind projects, and expect to double that number in the next four years.


The wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) played an important role in helping to create the market opportunity for wind power. The PTC reduced the corporate tax burden on wind project companies, and attracted domestic capital to build a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the U.S. Any tax credits are strictly based on how much power is actually produced by each project (no power produced, no tax credits). And that tool has worked.


Wind jobs grew nine times faster than the overall economy last year, and they can be found across all 50 states. More than 500 U.S. factories build wind-related parts, and wind turbine technician is one of America’s two fastest growing jobs. There could be another 50,000 wind jobs and $85 billion in economic activity added by the end of President Trump’s first term, according to Navigant Consulting.


But now that growth is at risk.


The House’s tax reform proposal breaks a bipartisan agreement made at the end of 2015 to extend but phase out the PTC (that law is on the books). The tax reform proposal reneges on that agreement and American workers stand to suffer mightily as a result.


The House bill retroactively changes how wind developers can qualify for the PTC months or years after business decisions were made based on the agreement with Congress. The House bill contemplates a new set of rules.


But companies cannot go back in time to still qualify for the PTC, and they cannot un-spend the multi-billion investments already on the books. That means they will be forced to break factory orders for new wind turbines and cancel construction contracts to build new projects. This violates the basic policy rule that all businesses expect in the U.S.: a stable investment environment.


As a result, half of the wind projects scheduled to be built between now and 2020 will not go forward, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That also means corresponding job losses for American workers, and the U.S. could lose out on $50 billion of private infrastructure investment.


If these retroactive changes are passed, they should have a chilling effect on any American business. How can a company confidently make investment and hiring decisions knowing Congress could retroactively change the rules down the line?


Our Kansas delegation in Washington knows how much wind energy has meant to our state. Kansas has been a wind industry leader, generating nearly 30 percent of our electricity from wind. At the same time, the industry has created $8.4 billion of private investment in the state. Congress needs to keep this success story going.


Tradewind Energy is a model of the American dream: a big idea and lots of hard work that turns into a thriving business. The more than 5,000 Kansans with wind jobs are part of that dream, too.


Congress should not turn its back on these families. It needs to honor the 2015 PTC deal so others can have the same chance at success. Tax reform is supposed to help American businesses and workers, not endanger them.


Rob Freeman is the chief executive officer of Tradewind Energy.


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