Clean Energy Advocates Take Their Case to Capitol Hill
The expiration clock continues to tick on a federal grant that manyclean energy advocates credit with providing an incredibly helpful boost to the solar and wind energy economy in the United States. And with few options left, supporters of the federal program have taken their case to Capitol Hill in a final effort to convince a lame-duck Congress to extend it.
The Treasury Grant Program gives installers of qualified solar energy systems a cash rebate thatcovers 30 percent of the system’s cost. When we flip the calendar to2011, that cash incentive will revert back to a 30-percent incentive tax credit (ITC) as it was before the 2009 American Recovery andReinvestment Act turned it in to a cash program.
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) proposed a bill that included extending the grant, but the House nixed the bill by a 53-37 margin. It needed 66 votes to pass. Advocates of the program were then hoping that President Obama would include an extension of the TGP as part of therecently announced tax cut program. Those hopes were not realized.
The clean energy cash grant is important to the clean energy industry for reasons that are better explained by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which is advocating an extension of the program as it currently exists through December 31, 2012:
“The Treasury Grant Program is needed because manyrenewable developers have little or no tax liability and thus arereliant on “tax equity” financing to benefit from the ITC. The TGPeliminates the need to secure scarce tax equity to finance a commercialsolar project. The absence of tax equity financing continues today, andwill likely persist through 2012. Due to global economic conditions, abig gap remains between the total amount of financing renewable energydevelopers need and what money is available. The grant program expiresat the end of 2010. However, the tax equity market has still notrecovered from the Wall Street collapse.”
If the TGP is not extended, we’ll see a chilling effect immediately,according to Chief Executive of the American Wind Energy AssociationDenise Bode. Bode says that in Texas alone, 3,000 jobs would be injeopardy because some of the wind projects in the state can’t be builtwithout the grant. Texas is currently home to more wind energy capacitythan any state in the country. Nationwide, Bode estimates that some20,000 jobs are at stake in the wind energy industry.
Late on Thursday night ABC News reported that an extension of the program is now likely, as many House andSenate democrats have rushed to the defense of the clean energyincentive. Seventeen senators and 81 House members each wrote separateletters to their leaders in support of the program — and they’reconfident that something will get done before the New Year’s Evedeadline. Stay tuned.
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