As Wind Thrives, State Lawmakers Worry For Coal

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Are federal tax credits for wind energy causing North Dakota’s coal industry to suffer?

Top state lawmakers believe so.

In tonight’s Eye on Energy, Tim Olson reports on the state of wind energy in North Dakota – and the reservations some leaders have about it.

(Tim Olson, KX News) Wind-generated power has blossomed in North Dakota – for the obvious reasons.

(Julie Fedorchak, Public Service Commission) “It’s a windy state – so it’s a really strong resource for generating renewable energy via wind.”

(Olson) But there’s another big reason that you’re seeing more and more turbines in the state. It’s called the production tax credit, or PTC – a federal subsidy meant to attract investors to renewable resources.

Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak says the PTC was instrumental in making wind a viable energy resource.

(Fedorchak) “It allowed for and helped support the technological advancements that have brought the industry to where it is today.”

(Olson) The federal tax credit is set to be phased out, incrementally over the next three years.

But some state legislators would rather that happen now than later.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, and other top lawmakers penned a letter to U.S. Senator John Hoeven to say that the PTC, quote, “is wreaking havoc on the coal industry and its employees”, and to urge him to repeal it immediately.

Fedorchak agrees that the rise of wind has been tough on more traditional energy sources.

(Fedorchak) “There’s a lot of new wind generation facilities that are available to be dispatched to the market at a very low price, and that makes it hard for any other resource – coal, nuclear, natural gas, all of those have to compete at a lower cost.”

(Olson) But she says coal has its place, too – and going forward, both industries will find a way to coexist.

(Fedorchak) “You can stockpile coal. You can predict the price of coal. It’s very reliable and it’s very low cost. Our country is blessed with vast energy resources. It would be a real shame to turn our back on any of them.”

(Olson) In Bismarck with your Eye on Energy, Tim Olson, KX News.

About 21-percent of North Dakota’s power is generated by wind.

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