US Senators Re-Introduce MLP Act to Level Playing Field for Renewable Energy

JinkoSolar Holding Co. and First Solar Inc. were among solar companies that surged after four U.S. senators introduced legislation that would let renewable- energy projects qualify for a tax-advantaged corporate structure currently used by oil, natural gas and pipeline projects.

Jinko rose 14 percent to $6.49 at the close in New York, the most since April 9. First Solar gained 12 percent and the NYSE Bloomberg Global Solar Energy Index of 103 members rose 2.6 percent.

The measure would let renewable-energy companies form master-limited partnerships (MLPs), giving them the ability to raise funds like a corporation and pay taxes as a partnership, according to a statement today from Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat. He introduced the bill with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, and Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

MLPs have “helped the oil and natural gas industry deliver the abundant and affordable energy that powers our economy today,” Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in the statement. “Through a small change in the tax code, this legislation will provide renewables with the same opportunity.”

The bill is similar to a prior version focused on renewable power generation and biofuels projects that was introduced last year and failed to pass. The re-introduced bill widens the scope of projects that would qualify to include energy-efficient buildings, waste heat-to-power systems, carbon capture and storage and biochemicals.  The new bill was hailed by Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association as “an important step toward leveling the playing field between clean, renewable energy and long-entrenched energy sources in America.”

Bipartisan Support

The measure has support from Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the U.S. Congress, Murkowski said earlier this week.

The proposal is supported by at least one oil and gas group. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main lobbying group, said MLPs would provide an incentive for private investors and help wean renewable energy producers from federal subsidies.

“Having a new vehicle to introduce some capital with some additional liquidity and a lower cost of capital probably would help demand,” Ben Schuman, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities LLC in Portland, Oregon, said in an interview today.

Lead image: Businessman against a solar installation via Shutterstock