Congress Introduces Bill to Catalyze Economic Development for Rural and Agricultural Communities Through Energy Investment

Bi-partisanship has been hard to come by in Congress these days. That is what makes Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-DE) and Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) introduction of bill S.1409 late last month so influential. Despite the entrenched differences on both sides of the aisle, legislators of late have found common ground in their interest to modify the tax code to provide an “all-of-the-above” energy policy and create parity among advanced energy technologies, like solar, small wind, geothermal, and fuel cells.

Leadership on this issue started with Congressmen Tom Reed (R-NY-23) and Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) with their introduction of H.R. 1090Technologies for Energy Security Act of 2017. The Congressmen recognized that the failure to extend certain provisions of Section 48 of the tax code disproportionately impacted rural and agricultural communities throughout the country and restricting their opportunities for energy choice.

“Extending the Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy sources, as well as incentives for fuel cell, combined heat and power, small wind and geothermal investments, will further advance these technologies and help our country achieve energy security,” said Reed. “As a proponent of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, this credit will even the playing field for rural areas and help create jobs in those regions. This is an important and meaningful policy change that will encourage development of efficient energy sources.”

For many rural agribusiness owners, small wind energy is a preferred technology for use at their agricultural operations.

“I proudly own two distributed wind turbines that produce energy to power my on-site agricultural operations. I am also leasing several more turbines from United Wind, Inc. These small wind energy systems provide me tremendous economic benefit, allowing me to hedge against volatile commodity prices and electricity rates and reinvest savings back into my business and community,” said Erick Farmer, owner of Heritage Dairy in Yuma, Colo. The proposed bills will ensure that farmers with great wind resources at their properties and the desire to install a wind turbine, receive the same benefit as suburban families who install solar panels on their roofs.

Carper, ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Heller, chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure, have appreciated the urgency to address the market disruption that resulted from the expiration of these tax credits at the end of 2016. Similar to Reed’s bill, the Carper-Heller bill would renew and expand the expired Section 48 ITC and Section 25D residential tax credit for clean energy technologies. These credits would be phased out over the next five years, mirroring the phase-out terms that solar energy received. In addition, the Senate bill includes “Waste Heat to Power” as a qualifying technology and eligible for the credit.  

The proposed legislation aims to strengthen America’s energy security, support job creation and economic growth, and ensure that the U.S. utilizes all available energy resources, including clean power. Congress understands the exponential economic benefits that can be catalyzed by the extension of the ITC, especially in those rural communities eager for economic prosperity. The bipartisan support for this policy is undeniable; at present, there are 96 co-sponsors to H.R. 1090, with 55 from the Republican caucus.

For dairy farmers, feedlots, and other agribusinesses, these bills will allow them to realize immediate economic gain by leveraging the natural and sustainable resources that exist on their properties. With the energy cost savings that result from the use of these technologies, these farmers will then be able to sustain and expand their agricultural operations over the long term, and have confidence in handing it off to the next generation.

Lead image: Small wind energy technician climbing tower to install a distributed wind turbine. Credit: United Wind, Inc.

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Jason Kaplan is the General Counsel and Head of Policy for United Wind . Dana Monz is a summer intern at United Wind and assisted in the research of the article.

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