Bioenergy, Geothermal, Hydropower, Project Development, Solar, Wind Power

Renewable Energy Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

With energy independence and renewable energy development a legislative priority for Congressional leaders, the introduction of another renewable energy legislative proposal made its way to the Senate floor last week. Senator Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) bill, called Breaking Our Long-term Dependence (BOLD) Energy Act, includes a five-year extension of the solar investment tax credit for businesses through 2012 and an extension of the wind energy production tax credit for the same period.

The bill would also require ethanol use in the U.S. to increase from 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 to 30 billion gallons by 2025, and would establish a new biodiesel and alternative diesel standard of 250 million gallons in 2008, increasing to two billion gallons in 2015, creating greater demand for biodiesel as a transportation fuel — and greater demand for biodiesel manufacturing plants. Recognizing the need for conservation, the BOLD Act encourages the manufacture and purchase of fuel-efficient and flexible-fuel vehicles. Purchasers of fuel-efficient vehicles would qualify for rebates up to $2,500. Automakers would be encouraged to install advanced technologies, including flexible-fuel technology, by 2017. They would be eligible for either a 35 percent tax credit or retiree health care grants to make this transition. The residential credit for solar, however, was not included in the bill, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Conrad’s bill would also establish a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) with a goal of 10% renewables by 2020, with a triple-credit multiplier for distributed generation projects less than one megawatt in size. Not surprisingly, the SEIA does not anticipate this bill to move forward in its current form with some of the strong measures such as a national RPS, which has historically been voted down by lawmakers. Senator Conrad is now the third member of the Senate Finance Committee in the last month to introduce legislation to extend the solar investment tax credit (ITC). As mentioned earlier by Renewable Energy Access, Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus have proposed the Alternative Energy Extender Act, S. 2401, which would extend both the residential and the commercial ITCs for solar for an additional three years, creating a total of five years for both credits (see related story at the link below). “Although both bills provide a shorter window than the eight-year extender we are advocating for, it is encouraging that the Senate is willing to push extenders this year in a bipartisan fashion,” said a statement from SEIA. There were other nonrenewable energy initiatives in the comprehensive package including a USD $500 million grant program to fund the development of coal-to-liquid fuel technology. It would also help increase domestic oil production by increasing tax credits for oil companies that use carbon dioxide to extract more oil from aging oil fields.