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'Remarkable' public backing for US wind and solar incentives: pollster

Renewables groups delighted as survey suggests 'overwhelming' public support for extensions

Americans backed extension of tax incentives for wind and solar in what an opinion pollster labelled a "remarkable" 89% show of cross-party support for clean energy.

Public opinion specialist Global Strategy Group (GSG), which surveyed 800 voters in so-called 'battleground' states across the US, said 95% of Democrats, 83% of Republicans and 86% of Independents back an extension, with candidates supporting that position in line for big benefits in voting intentions.

GSG said of the figures: "These are remarkable results, not only to see such overwhelming cross-partisan consensus at such a polarised time, but to see how many voters would shift their vote based on the issue."

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The major incentive mechanisms underpinning the growth of wind and solar, the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) are both currently in phase-down mode – in the case of wind spurring a major installation dash.

Moves to give them a new lease of life began in Congress last month when a clean energy tax package was unveiled that seeks a five-year renewal, while also enabling energy storage to qualify.

The incentive issue has sometimes proved a tricky one for US renewables, with some sections of the industry swinging between backing rolling extensions of support, and a desire to be seen as an industry able to compete on its own terms without the need for tax subsidies – which can also complicate project financing arrangements.

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But there was unanimous joy at the claim of public backing, which industry figures said showed the strong position of renewables among voters over investment, jobs and fighting climate change – despite the high-profile scepticism of President Donald Trump.

The poll was released on the day French cable group Nexans announced it will build a factory in South Carolina to meet demand in the US offshore wind sector, helping the emerging industry’s case as a bringer of industrial benefits.

Gregory Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said: "Over 80% of Americans from across the political spectrum back clean energy tax incentives, and will support politicians who do the same. It's another good reason for Congress to include clean energy tax incentives in any must-pass legislation this year."

Aaron Severn, senior director, federal affairs, at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), added: "We hope members of Congress will heed their constituents' call to action and extend tax credits for onshore and offshore wind, putting the industry a step closer to tax policy parity with other energy sources as it helps champion efforts to alleviate climate change."

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