Update: US Senate Passes Stimulus Package with Renewable Energy Provisions

The U.S. Senate voted today to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill (H.R. 1) is the US $839 billion stimulus package that the Obama Administration has been pushing as a means to help the nation recover from the current economic situation. The bill passed by a vote of 61-37, mostly along party lines.

The House of Representatives passed another version of the bill last month by a vote of 244-188. Differences between the House-passed bill and the Senate version in debate involve different funding levels for various technologies and programs. RenewableEnergyWorld.com broke down the Senate and House versions of the bill last week.

The two versions of the bill will now go into conference where the House and Senate will attempt to reconcile the two bills into one that will have the momentum to pass both houses of Congress. Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will represent the Senate in the negotiations.

It is expected that some provisions will be taken out of the Senate version of the bill, what provisions those will be remains unclear.

“House and Senate negotiators are expected to start meeting on February 11 to iron out the differences in the hope of sending a final bill to the president by February 16. Reconciling the two bills will not be easy.  The three Republicans who voted with the Democrats to give the bill the margin it needed to pass the Senate have not committed to support the final bill when it comes back from conference if the Senate moves too far in the direction of the House in the conference negotiations,” Keith Martin, a partner with Chadbourne & Parke said in his analysis of the situation.

However, Martin also said that any provision that is in both bills is expected to be in the final measure sent to the president.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) praised the Senate’s passage of the bill but said they will be pushing for some of the provisions, included in the House bill, such as the Department of Energy (DOE) grant program to make it into the final package.

“This stimulus package is a critical down payment on long-term policies to enhance energy security, encourage new economic investment in jobs, and address climate change,” said Greg Wetstone, AWEA’s senior director for Governmental Affairs. “The House DOE grant program is absolutely essential to continuing the growth of wind power and other renewable energy sources through the down economy.”

Check back with RenewableEnergyWorld.com for continuing updates on this story as well as industry reactions and analysis of this story throughout the afternoon and the rest of the week.

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