American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Denise Bode is resigning.
This news comes a day after announcing that the wind industry urgently needs Congress to extend its production tax credit (PTC) for 2013. And that wind could become the first renewable energy industry to go incentive-free by 2019,
“There is now a strong, bipartisan team of congressional champions for the wind industry and the all-important extension of the PTC,” Bode said in her resignation statement.
Political gridlock continues to prevent extension of the PTC for next year. Thousands of workers have been laid off, plants across the country have been shuttered and the worst may be yet to come. Bode’s job is yet another job lost to Congressional inaction in the most successful renewable energy industry.
Congress watchers say wind’s PTC will get a one-year extension, along with other special tax provisions, in a tax extenders package attached to whatever fiscal cliff deal is made, whenever it is made.
But dissatisfied with the PTC’s progress and seeing the wind industry crumbling, AWEA decided to release its economic analysis. The analysis concluded that, with the PTC in place for 2013, the wind industry will be ready for a phase-out of the incentive beginning in 2014.
The phase-out offers a compromise to congressional conservatives who oppose any subsidy. It had been proposed as a bargaining tool by industry leaders like NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) and BP Wind (NYSE: BP) months ago, an industry player told GTM.
A letter sent Thursday by AWEA to congressional leaders said “detailed economic analyses and high-level discussions with industry leaders” concluded an extension of the PTC at 100 percent of its $0.022 per kilowatt-hour present value for projects started next year, followed by extensions at 90 percent of the present value for projects placed in service in 2014, at 80 percent in 2015, 70 percent for 2016, and at 60 percent for 2017 and 2018, should take the industry through the two further technology innovation cycles wind needs to go incentive-free in 2019.
A wind industry attorney reportedly complained that AWEA’s offer was premature. But, Bode said with the release of the analysis, “Our number-one priority right now is not putting the wind industry over its own fiscal cliff.”
Bode took over as AWEA CEO on January 1, 2009. The selection of a Republican and former oil and gas industry advocate and regulator was seen as a bold move to build political bipartisanship.
Said to have been in on the notorious early 2001 secretive White House energy policy meetings held by Dick Cheney, Bode could, wind’s leaders hoped, bridge the divide between wind and its fossil-fuel-industry opponents and perhaps help forge the kind of alliance between natural gas and wind that environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was working on at the time. Such an alliance during George W. Bush’s Texas governorship led to that state leading the country in wind capacity.
But Bode came in during a recession and at a time when bipartisanship was out of favor.
Still, Bode has been able to oversee one of wind’s biggest growth spurts. During her tenure the industry has doubled its capacity and increased its domestically manufactured content to almost 70 percent, according to Bode.
Under Bode’s leadership, several Southern utilities recognized the economic advantages of wind. But a federal RES grew even less achievable after the 2010 Tea Party electoral wave. The Tea Party-influenced Congress never seemed to recognize that 80 percent of wind is in Republican districts and seemed to oppose renewables only because President Obama was for them.
As a former high-ranking AWEA officer noted, Bode’s tenure after 2010 was characterized by growing partisan rancor and increasing attacks on wind, even though wind’s market penetration grew and its price fell below other generation sources.
There was grumbling from the start about Bode’s leadership style, a renewables veteran and congressional lobbyist told GTM. But, he acknowledged, smoother going for the PTC might have led to a different outcome.
“With tax policy the dominant interest of my career and prospects for a real tax reform bill in the air,” Bode, a tax attorney, said on resigning, “I can’t imagine a better time to make this move.”
Rob Gramlich, AWEA's Public Policy Senior VP and electric industry expert, will serve as interim CEO.