House clean energy tax bill sees broad industry support, but Senate path uncertain

Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive, Nov 25, 2019

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures Chairman Mike Thompson, D-Calif., introduced a draft bill on Tuesday to expand and extend renewable energy use through the tax code.

Thompson and a group of Democrats in the committee introduced the draft legislation that extends credits for solar, wind and electric vehicles, while also creating specific tax incentives for used electric vehicles, energy storage systems over 20 kWh and offshore wind.

Clean energy and renewables advocates, many of which supported the inception of the energy tax package, are asking for the bill to be brought to the House floor quickly, to put it into effect by the end of the year. Many credits, like the production tax credit, expire in 2020.

The draft bill is meant to address climate change through the tax code, creating job investment opportunities and also adding funding for new technologies, such as energy storage.

“The climate crisis requires bold action, and I’m pleased that we’re using legislative tools at the Ways and Means’ disposal to create green jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and heal our planet,” House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a statement.

Twenty-three other Democrats helped draft the bill, with support from the Union of Concerned Scientists and a slew of other clean energy and environmental organizations, including the American Council on Renewable Energy, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Electric Drive Transportation Association, Energy Storage Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Solar Energy Industries Association.

Dubbed the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, the draft of the legislation targets a wide range of tax credits, including:

Type of credit Energy Resource/Tech Adjustment in draft
Investment tax credit Solar 30% tax credit is extended through 2024, phasing down to 26% in 2025, 22% in 2026, and 10% thereafter
Investment tax credit Energy storage (minimum 20 kWh) 30% tax credit through 2024, phasing down to 26% in 2025, and 22% in 2026
Investment tax credit Offshore wind Eligibility through the end of 2024, or until national capacity is 3 GW above capacity at the start of 2020
Production tax credit Wind Extended though the end of 2024 at 60%
Production tax credit Most facilities (biomass, municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower) Revived and extended for production beginning by the end of 2024
Carbon oxide sequestration credit Carbon capture and sequestration Extended one year, through the end of 2024
Residential energy efficient property credit Expenditures from solar electric to geothermal heat pumps Extends full 30% credit through the end of 2024, to 26% in 2025 and 22% in 2026, expiring afterwards
New energy efficient home credit Expenditures from solar electric to geothermal heat pumps Extends award from $2000 to $2500 for new energy efficient units starting in 2020, extending credit through 2024
Electric vehicle (EV) credit New EV Credit is reduced by $500 but extended to manufacturer sales between 200,000 and 600,000 (current phaseout of credit begins at 200,000 vehicles)
Electric vehicle (EV) credit Used EV New credit for buyers of used plug-in electric cars through 2024, for a base of $1,250 (to the lesser of either $2,500 credit or 30% of the sale price)

Source: Rep. Thompson, Section-by-section summary of Green Act

The tax package is hailed as a crucial step in climate policy by a number of environmental groups.

“We encourage House leadership to quickly bring a package of clean energy extenders to the floor for a vote,” John Bowman, managing director for government affairs at the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “This is the one chance we have this year to move true climate legislation.”

Utility advocacy groups also cheered for the draft bill, specifically for the expansion of the electric vehicle credit, which has become a priority for the investor-owned utility group Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

“We appreciate Chairman Thompson’s support for expanding the electric vehicle tax credit and for recognizing the important role that electric transportation plays in spurring growth and innovation in domestic manufacturing; enhancing our nation’s energy security; reducing carbon dioxide emissions; and improving local air quality,” EEI President Tom Kuhn told Utility Dive in an email.

Uncertainty lies ahead

The new bill unites a lot of competing technologies for the first time, although Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had previously proposed a technology neutral tax credit that could be utilized by multiple clean energy resources.

However, it is uncertain whether the bill will advance past the House of Representatives before 2020.

“It’s clear there is some level of support for extenders as part of a year-end deal,” Gregory Jenner, former head of the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, and energy partner at Stoel Rives, said in a statement. “Frankly, it’s too soon to have any clear sense of how things will play out.”

Clean energy and renewables advocates, as well as legislators, have told Utility Dive in the past that any possible legislative vehicle is being considered for these bills. But concerns were raised about timing as the end of the year draws near.

“We still need to make sure solar remains part of any end-of-year deal and our fight isn’t over until an ITC extension is enacted into law,” Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO, said in a statement. “This package clearly conveys the sentiment that the ITC should be extended.”

“We likely will see a month-long extension to get us into December, but the situation is still too fluid and Ukraine is sucking all the oxygen out of DC,” Jenner added, referring to the impeachment proceeding that has impacted the energy space directly. After receiving subpoenas from Congress relating to contact with the Ukrainian president, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced his resignation.

While the House majority agreed on the tax package, there is more division between the Senate’s Republican majority. Some tax credits, like energy storage, have bipartisan support.

“It’s a very different place in the House versus the Senate and we’re just happy to be included in both sides of it,” Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association, told Utility Dive. “When it comes to the Senate side, they’ll take a look at what’s in there and they’ll be using that as a menu, if you will, in (terms) of what they might want to put forward.”

Offshore wind cuts great deal

The bill would also allow offshore wind to qualify for the investment tax credit. The shift in support for the renewable technology comes as U.S. offshore wind developers work to establish local supply chains and develop thousands of megawatts of the resources along the East Coast.

The production tax credit, which was a key driver of onshore wind development, would be preserved at the current phaseout levels for 2018 and 2019, and extended at 60% through the end of 2024.

“The investment tax credit is more useful for offshore wind than onshore wind, because of the long timelines,”  Liz Burdock, CEO & President of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, told Utility Dive.

The change is critical now, as offshore wind projects had not been announced in 2017 when Congress passed the last energy tax extenders package.