Update: Key Tax Bill for Renewables Passed by Congress

On Saturday, the U.S. Senate approved the “Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006” by a vote 79-9, thereby extending many of the tax credits that benefit the renewable energy industries. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law this week.

The comprehensive bill extends many of the vital tax credits for another year, including the production tax credit, which helps make larger projects economically feasible. “Extending the credit now – a full year before it was set to expire on December 31, 2007 is enormously important,” said the American Wind Energy Association’s Legislative Director, Jaime Steve. “This timely action by Congress will boost significant upward growth and investment for wind and other renewable energy technologies, spurring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in rural economic development while also bringing cleaner air to all Americans.” According to Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the bill is a step toward getting long term tax extensions introduced when Congress returns in January. “This is a huge victory for SEIA and positions us perfectly for a long term extension and expansion in 2007,” he said. The extended tax credits include the investment tax credit, the production tax credit, and credits for holders of renewable energy bonds. For additional background, see the original story below. ———————————————————– The 109th Congress is poised to pass the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, a $40 billion tax bill that will extend key tax credits for the U.S. renewable energy industries until December 31, 2008. The comprehensive bill will extend the investment tax credit, research and development tax credit, and credits for renewable energy bonds. Although the bill only extends these credits for another year, renewable energy advocates are hailing it as a major step forward for the wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower industries — and could set up Congressional action for longer term extensions next year. “This bill is a patch, and emphasizes the importance for Congress to enact long-term, comprehensive clean energy legislation when they return in January,” said Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Extensions of these credits will help eliminate the boom and bust cycle seen in many of the industries. If developers are unsure about the economic feasibility of a project, it may cause the project to be stalled for long periods of time, which has a negative impact on job growth and technological advancements. “The wind industry is thrilled that Congress has taken this step to extend the tax credits,” said Jaime Steve, Legislative Director of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “This is all about keeping the wind industry at work and job stability for American workers.” Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), said this tax bill ensures the continued growth of the geothermal industry. “The uncertainty that these tax credits would not be extended was already causing projects to be postponed or downsized. Now this means that a good number of those projects will clearly go forward,” said Gawell. “For the next year or 18 months we are going to see a very active market. But after that it will start tailing off. That’s why we need longer term extensions.” AWEA, SEIA, GEA and all the other renewable energy interest groups will be pushing the 110th Congress for long-term extensions in January when lawmakers return to Washington. “We were on fourth down and we just made a key conversion. Now we have another four downs to drive into the end zone,” said Resch. The bill may not be passed until later tonight or this weekend, said Resch. The House leadership will take up the measure today and could vote on it by this evening. Then it goes on to the Senate where cloture procedures may be used to accelerate the process so the bill can be voted on. Because there is so much in the bill, there has been intense debate in the House and Senate over certain provisions. But the pressure on lawmakers to pass tax legislation before the end of the 109th Congressional term makes it likely that the bill will make it to the President’s desk by Sunday. Meanwhile, industry representatives and advocates look on, eager for the Tax Relief and Health Care Act to move forward.
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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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