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November 1, 2013

Offshore Wind Needs a Boost from Congress

Like so many of us, Oceana has seen the damage that the drilling for and burning of fossil fuels can do to the health of our oceans and marine life. In fact, just last May, for the first time in history, the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million (ppm). This ominous milestone is a stark reminder of what our stubborn dependence on fossil fuels is doing to our planet. Such dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are bringing us ever closer to the point of no return, and we are already witnessing its disastrous effects. Hurricanes, tornados, tropical storms, and “superstorms” have increased in both severity and frequency.

These storms are the alarm bells of climate change. We have no choice but to act swiftly and immediately to drastically reduce the level of carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the Earth’s atmosphere. In that vein, Congress must move aggressively to incentivize clean energy development. Specifically, the development of domestic offshore wind will reduce our dependence on polluting fossil fuels and go a long way in combating global climate change. The scale of America’s offshore wind energy resource is truly staggering, with literally thousands of gigawatts of clean energy available off our shores. According to the Department of Energy, the U.S. has enough offshore wind energy potential to power the country four times over.

But like other burgeoning industries, one of the biggest impediments to offshore wind development is financing. The most critical federal tax incentive to help jumpstart a thriving offshore wind industry is the long-term eligibility of an Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The long investment time for offshore wind, the infancy of the industry and higher initial costs make financing for offshore wind different from onshore wind. Investors need a quicker return on such a long-term investment, which is why the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is advantageous for offshore wind projects. If the U.S. wants to invest in offshore wind, a long-term extension of the ITC for offshore wind is necessary.

To that end, Senators Tom Carper and Susan Collins and Reps. Bill Pascrell and Frank LoBiondo have introduced bipartisan legislation (S.401 and H.R.924, respectively) that will extend the ITC to the first 3,000 MW of offshore wind installed. This extension will provide certainty to investors that this clean energy resource has the support of the federal government for years to come. Such long-term tax certainty will make offshore wind an affordable, viable investment and will ultimately help to catapult this burgeoning industry into the mainstream. Congress needs to pass this legislation immediately, or provide a long-term extension of the ITC via tax reform or an extenders package, so that we can swiftly transition to a clean energy future.

We can no longer afford to do nothing. We have already surpassed the acceptable upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The longer we continue with business as usual, the harder it will be to correct the damage we have done.