A leading green energy trade association couches its advocacy in terms of support for American jobs and manufacturing, but a committee of executives representing numerous foreign firms drives the group’s agenda.
The American Wind Energy Association won’t answer questions about that discrepancy, or say why it removed from its website a list of member companies, many foreign-owned, that help steer its policy advocacy.
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AWEA members fall into one of seven membership tiers. The top tier is called Corporate 7. According to the group’s website, chief executives of "C7" companies can sit on an AWEA panel called the Leadership Council.
"AWEA's Leadership Council is a body of our highest level members (Corporate 7) that set/discuss overall direction of the industry," according to an archived page on the group’s website.
That page has been deleted since it was archived in September 2013. The website currently offers no other specific explanations of what the Leadership Council does, or which companies are represented on the panel.
AWEA did not respond to numerous requests for information on its Leadership Council and the panel’s member companies, or how the preponderance of foreign owned firms on the panel reflects on the group’s made-in-the-USA rhetoric.
As of late 2013, the archived page indicates, 13 companies were represented on the council. Seven of them are foreign-owned. All of those seven have received U.S. taxpayer subsidies in some form.
AWEA’s primary goals include preserving and expanding subsidies for such foreign companies. However, the group frequently frames its position as advocacy for "homegrown" "American" energy resources and companies.
A section of AWEA’s website advising supporters on how to win over wind energy skeptics includes an entire section of talking points touting its made-in-America character. "The right policy support [will allow] U.S. workers to produce more energy right here at home," another page says.
Policy support in this case means subsidies for AWEA’s member companies. Its primary policy goals are currently extensions of tax credits for wind energy investment and production.
Those credits are critical for the survival of the wind energy industry, which would not be financially viable without them, according to investor Warren Buffett.
"On wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit," Buffett said last year.
AWEA is upfront about the industry’s reliance on government incentives. Faced with uncertainty over whether the production tax credit would be extended, the group says on its website, "companies throughout the wind industry were forced to put their development plans on hold, and manufacturers saw orders dry up."
Those companies included Iberdrola, which laid off 50 employees in anticipation of the PTC’s expiration. That company, based in Spain, is one of the seven foreign-owned firms listed as a Leadership Council member in 2013.
The others are Nordex and E.ON Climate & Renewables, both German companies; French EDF Renewable Energy; Portuguese EDP Renewables; a subsidiary of the British RES Group; and Danish firm Vestas.