GRAND FORKS - The group representing the wind energy industry is “optimistic” Congress will renew a tax credit benefiting its members by the end of the year.

The federal production tax credit, which provides 2.3 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity produced, expired at the end of 2013. But projects that were under construction by then were still eligible for the credit.

“We’re optimistic that Congress will extend it before the end of this year,” said David Ward, spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, on Friday.

The wind energy industry accounts for about 600 jobs in Grand Forks, specifically at LM Wind Power, which makes wind turbine blades. LM doesn’t receive the tax credit, but its customers do.

In recent years, the tax credit has faced uncertainty and expirations, which have led to a “boom bust” cycle in the industry, Ward said. LM Wind Power itself cited inaction over the tax credit as part of the reason it shed hundreds of local jobs in 2012.

Ryan Bernstein, Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven’s chief of staff, said a package of “tax extenders” that would include a production tax credit extension through the end of 2015 is awaiting Senate action. That extension would also include language allowing for projects under construction before the end of 2015 to be eligible for the credit, Bernstein said.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he anticipates an extension of the credit along with the other tax breaks before the end of the year. He said it’s also possible that the extension would include a gradual “phase-out” over a number of years.

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the tax credit’s long-term outlook has been discussed with the wind energy industry in the past.

“I think that they appreciate that this isn’t a permanent kind of thing,” Heitkamp said.

But she said lawmakers anticipated before the November election passing a one-year extension before a larger discussion on tax reform next year.

Heitkamp was hopeful that the tax extender package, including the production tax credit, could be passed by the end of the year.

“We are pushing very hard for the production tax credit,” she said.