The following post is from Katie Gulley, Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance in Minnesota.
Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 343’s Training Facility in Rochester, MN with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman (listen to an interview he did with us during his visit here). For the last three years, IBEW has offered a wind training certification program to teach unemployed electricians and others the skills they need to construct, install and maintain America’s wind turbines.
These workers are excited to get back to work, and they should be in high demand since IBEW staff says the start of a single wind farm can employ 45 electricians. Unfortunately, these jobs are becoming harder to come by. Why is this, you may ask, when Minnesota, alone, installed more than 540 megawatts of wind energy last year?
The answer is that the wind energy industry is already beginning to prepare for the loss of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy — a 2.2-cent tax credit for every kilowatt-hour of wind energy produced. Although Congress still has time to renew this tax credit, union officials say companies are putting projects on hold while they wait to see if Congress acts.
From the Rochester Post Bulletin:
Becky Thofson, who helps area residents find jobs, said she told the deputy secretary that she has seen a noticeable slowdown in wind-farm development.
“We've got shovel-ready projects waiting, but I think a lot of them are depending on the tax credits,” said Thofson, industrial sectors projects manager for Workforce Development Inc. in Rochester.
Minnesota’s wind industry is strong. As Deputy Secretary Poneman said, “Minnesota is on the front lines of America’s growing clean energy economy. Its innovative businesses and training programs will develop a workforce with the skills necessary for the manufacturing jobs of the future.”
It’s now time for Congress to do its part and renew the Production Tax Credit, the 1603 Treasure grant program and the Advanced Energy Project Credit so we can save American jobs and get the new graduates of IBEW Local 343’s program back to work. Learn more and take action here.
(PHOTO: Deputy Secretary of Energy Poneman discusses green jobs training in Rochester, MN)