Congress expected to revisit renewables incentives

Congress is expected to make another attempt to extend expiring production tax credits and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds for renewable energy projects including some hydropower.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., introduced new legislation that includes a three-year extension of the renewable energy incentives. Democratic leaders said they would take up the bill when lawmakers return from a Presidents’ Day recess Feb. 25.

The new Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Act of 2008 would extend the in-service date for eligible renewables projects through Dec. 31, 2011, and add marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy to the list of qualified energy projects. The legislation also would authorize $2 billion for the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program, 60 percent of which would be used to benefit public power providers and 40 percent to benefit electric cooperatives. (HNN 2/12/08)

The bill defines marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy to include energy from: waves, tides, and currents in oceans, estuaries, and tidal areas; free-flowing water in rivers, lakes, and streams; and free-flowing water in an irrigation system, canal, or other man-made channel, including projects that use non-mechanical structures to accelerate the flow of water for the purpose of generating electric power. Qualified facilities must have a nameplate capacity of at least 150 kW and be placed in service before Jan. 1, 2012.

Existing qualified energy sources include small irrigation hydropower of less that 5 MW, and “incremental” hydro: efficiency improvements or capacity additions to existing hydro projects, and the addition of hydropower generation to existing non-hydropower water resources facilities.

Rangel’s measure is similar to one that would have provided a one-year extension of production tax credits that supporters failed to attach to an economic stimulus bill. Congress passed the economic stimulus bill Feb. 7, without renewing the renewables incentives, scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2008. (HNN 2/8/08) Similarly, Congress deleted the incentives extension language from an energy bill that passed in December. (HNN 12/14/07)

Rangel’s bill contains one of the main objections that prompted a Republican filibuster threat and eventual failure of the previous renewables incentives. It would fund the renewables incentives by repealing $18 billion in tax incentives for oil companies. Enough senators opposed increasing taxes on the oil companies to prevent the legislation from passage.

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