Congress passes renewable energy tax credits
Renewable energy producers can breathe a bit easier. The House of Representatives Oct. 1 passed a $700-billion economic bailout bill that included extensions for valuable renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits.
The failure of the House to pass the bailout a week earlier drove the Senate to add so-called sweeteners in the form of numerous tax incentives to the bill including a long sought after one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind and biomass plants, and an eight-year extension of Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar, tidal, geothermal and other types of renewable power. Both were scheduled to expire at the end of 2008.
Some analysts predicted that the loss of the PTC and the ITC would have had disastrous effects on the economy as a whole. As many as 116,000 jobs nationwide and billions of dollars of investment in the economy could have been lost if the credits had expired, according to an oft-sited study prepared by Navigant Consulting in February and released by the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industry Association.
A study released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors the day before the House vote underlined the same point, adding that the economy could generate 4.2 million “green” jobs over the next 30 years if 40 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from alternative resources by 2038.
West Coast renewable energy advocates are hailing the passage of the extensions. “It certainly is going to help us with long-term market growth in California,” says Sue Kately, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “It’s going to give us stabilization and certainty. The challenge is still there and the need for products is still there. We need to build the industry and infrastructure.” She cited a need to create consistency between the 55 jurisdictions in the state responsible for issuing permits for solar projects as her next priority.
In the Pacific Northwest, where renewable energy most often comes from wind, the executive director of Renewable Northwest Project, Rachel Shimshak, says she is pleased, but was more measured in her response. “A year’s worth of extension of the PTC is a good start, but we need a much longer term strategy in order to secure the market over the next couple of decades,” she says. “We’re hopeful about that in the next Congress.”
The bailout bill included a number of other wins for renewable energy, cleantech and sustainability advocates including one to extend a credit for homeowners who make improvements that increase the energy efficiency of their homes; another that creates a credit ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 for purchasers of plug-in electric-drive vehicles; and a credit for companies that provide fringe benefits to employees who commute by bicycle. The total cost of the tax portion of the package is more than $100 billion.