, October 3, 2008 (ENS) - Renewable energy businesses are breathing a sigh of relief today as the extension of the production and investment tax credits that benefit their industries were approved by Congress as part of the $700 billion bail-out package for the financial industry.
The House of Representatives passed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, this afternoon by a vote of 263 to 171, and less than two hours later, President George W. Bush signed it into law. The Senate passed it on Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that she is "pleased that the bill includes an extension of tax cuts for clean renewable energy that will create and save half a million good-paying paying jobs in America immediately."
"This was a part of our energy bill last year; it did not survive the Senate. It now has become a part of this legislation. And it is paid for. We fought hard to include these critical tax cuts ... because they are central to job creation," Pelosi said.
The tax credit package will extend the renewable energy production tax credit for one year and the investment tax credit for eight years. The extensions will be partly paid for by a change in the tax code for the oil and gas industry.
Greg Wetstone, senior director of governmental and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement, "We salute Members of Congress in both parties who fought under difficult conditions to keep the renewable energy production tax credit and small turbine investment tax credit on the agenda until the very end, and then pushed them across the finish line."
Wind turbine and flag at the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, New York (Photo PPM Energy)
"These tax credits are essential to the continued growth of wind energy, to the economic and energy security of the United States, and to a successful beginning in the fight against global warming," said Wetstone.
"We look forward to working next year with a new Congress and administration to fashion a serious long-term clean energy policy that increases domestic energy, increases our reliance on clean renewable energy, and creates jobs for Americans," he said.
The one year production tax credit extension also applies to other energy sources such as geothermal; closed-loop biomass; hydropower; landfill gas; and trash combustion facilities.
It also creates a tax credit for a new energy production category – marine renewable - which is energy derived from waves, tides, and currents.
The bill creates a new limitation on the amount of credits that can be claimed with respect to property placed in service after 2009.
The measure increases the tax credit limitation for fuel cells from $500 to $1,500 per half kilowatt of capacity.
The bill provides tax credits for advanced coal electricity projects with highest priority given to projects with the greatest separation and sequestration percentage of total carbon dioxide emissions at a cost of $1.4 billion over 10 years.
"This bill is a major step in our long journey toward energy independence and ensures that solar energy will be a significant part of America's energy future," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, SEIA, which has lobbied long and hard for the tax credit extensions.
String ribbon solar cell technology combines attributes of conventional crystalline silicon and emerging thin films. (Photo courtesy Evergreen Solar)
He said 60,000 Americans are employed by the solar energy industry.
"This long-term extension of the solar tax credits will create a domestic solar industry with hundreds of thousands of jobs while providing clean, affordable, carbon-free energy to millions of American families, businesses, and communities," said Resch.
The solar investment tax credit provisions will extend for eight years the 30 percent tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations.
The $2,000 monetary cap for residential solar electric installations is eliminated and so is the prohibition on utilities from benefiting from the credit.
It also authorizes $800 million for clean energy bonds for renewable energy generating facilities, including solar.
The solar tax credits were originally enacted in the 2005 and have created unprecedented growth across the United States where the amount of solar electric capacity installed in 2007 was double that installed in 2006.
"By passing this bill, Congress has finally given the solar energy industry 'policy certainty' that will attract investment, expand manufacturing and lower the cost of solar energy to consumers," said Roger Efird, SEIA chairman and president of Suntech America, a Chinese solar power manufacturing company. "This will allow companies like mine to move forward with expansion plans to serve the growing U.S. market."
"This bill puts the Sun to work for every American," added Resch. "And by 2016, we expect solar energy to be the least expensive source of electricity for consumers."
Of the entire $700 billion bail-out package, Speaker Pelosi said that the need for this measure is "urgent" and that the version passed today is much improved over the version rejected by the House on Monday.
"To protect the taxpayers, we insisted on tough oversight and accountability," Pelosi said, adding, ""We also reformed CEO compensation and [put] an end to golden parachutes."
House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri said, "The action we were forced to take this week on the House floor was extraordinary, difficult, and necessary. And though not a perfect bill, I was proud to lend my hand to the process in a way to help ensure taxpayer protections were included, and unrelated special-interest give-aways were left out."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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