Friday, November 16, 2012

Renewable Energy Law News - Week of November 12

Fate of wind energy production tax credit in hands of Obama, House GOP, officals say

The fate of a tax credit that advocates say is needed to maintain tens of thousands of wind energy jobs will be decided during high-stakes, last-minute negotiations between President Obama and House Republicans over fiscal issues, officials said Tuesday.

The wind energy production tax credit is due to expire at the end of the year. Its extension stalled in Congress this summer amid fierce opposition from some conservative House Republicans. The last chance to extend the measure is in the budget deal that will be cut between Obama and Republicans in the lame duck session of Congress.

Backers of the credit tried to ramp up pressure to extend the $12 billion break Tuesday with a teleconference featuring several governors, who noted that uncertainty over its fate has led to thousands of job losses across the country. A study by a wind energy group found that 37,000 jobs would be lost if the credit expires.

The credit's supporters say the government has subsidized fossil fuels like oil for more than a century. Opponents argue it distorts the energy marketplace and leads to higher prices.

Governors Urge Congress to Renew Wind Energy Production Tax Credit

Salt Lake City, UT -- With the expiration of the wind energy Production Tax Credit looming and the clock ticking rapidly away to the end of 2012, a bipartisan group of U.S. governors is urging Congress to act now to save jobs. In a joint press conference held today, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stressed that uncertainty over the extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) is already beginning to have an impact on renewable energy jobs.

“The uncertainty about the future of this tax incentive,” Grassley said, “hurts the economic good that these policies do.” Grassley, who authored the original wind energy PTC in 1992 and has also sponsored Senate bill (S. 3521), which aims to extend the tax credit for at least another year, pointed to the expiration of the biodiesel tax credit in 2010 as an example that he says resulted in 23,000 jobs being “put on hold.” This is a situation that all involved are keen to prevent from happening to wind energy in their states.

Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA) also cited uncertainty about the wind energy PTC’s fate as a major playing factor in the decision of some companies to have already begun eliminating jobs. “Due to the uncertainty,” Branstad said, “we’ve begun to see a negative economic impact and loss of jobs in our states. In Iowa, Siemens recently announced the layoff of 400 employees at their plant in Fort Madison, and Clipper Windpower laid off 100 workers at their plant in Cedar Rapids. We have literally thousands of wind energy related jobs in our state. These are high tech, high paying jobs.” Branstad says he remains hopeful that Congress will act quickly to extend the PTC.

Branstad is the chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which is a group comprised of 28 state governors who all share the goal of leveraging wind energy resources as a way to pursue the long-held goal of lasting energy independence.

“Nationally, wind energy drives about $10 to $20 billion a year in private sector capital investment and employs almost 75,000 Americans,” said John Kitzhaber (D-OR), Governor of Oregon and vice chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. Kitzhaber used Oregon’s own Sherman County as an example of how rural communities can utilize wind energy production to drive revenue. “The county now receives $33 million per year in revenue from wind farms,” Kitzhaber said. “That’s revenue that has proved essential to sustain schools, fire departments and road maintenance.”

Hawaii issues new rules for renewable energy tax credit

HONOLULU - The state Department of Taxation on Friday issued new rules for the renewable energy tax credits that have spurred more residents to install solar panels.

The department said it is doing so to provide clarity to taxpayers, but environmentalists and renewable energy advocates said the new rules jeopardize the state's progress in moving away from imported fossil fuels.

The rules, which will take effect on Jan. 1, require renewable energy systems to meet set output capacity requirements. The Sierra Club and Earthjustice said the change would limit the solar tax credit for the average residential solar power system to $5,000. This would effectively cut the tax credit in half and put solar power out of the reach of many families, they said.

The department explained its decision by saying the previous rules, issued in 2010, created uncertainty and an unlevel playing field. The department has been receiving complaints about the rules for more than a year, it said.

The law grants residents and businesses a tax credit for installing a renewable energy system. Some people, however, have been advised by the companies putting in their solar panels to say their installation consists of multiple systems and then claimed the credit multiple times. This has made solar panels more affordable and encouraged many more people to buy them but it's also depleted tax revenues and made it harder for the state to balance its budget.

"After listening to taxpayers concerns, the department is issuing these new temporary rules in order to provide consistent, uniform and fair application of the tax credit law, while still supporting the State's public policy goal of reducing our reliance on fossil fuel," the department said in a statement.

Photo via Flickr

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