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US lawmakers punt on adding clean energy breaks to tax bill, hint future action

  • Author
  • Molly Christian
  • Editor
  • Mark Watson
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power

Washington — Seen as 'beginning of a process'

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Democratic senators push for action

Members of the US House of Representatives' tax-writing committee said they will work on a new bill to expand incentives for renewable and clean energy amid complaints that their new tax extenders bill gives clean energy short shrift.

The Democrat-controlled House Committee on Ways and Means introduced a bill Tuesday to extend dozens of expired or soon-to-end tax breaks, including for certain energy resources. H.R. 3301, or the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2019, would prolong the federal wind energy production tax credit by a year to projects that begin construction by 2021 and offer three-year retroactive extensions to credits for several other smaller-scale renewable energy technologies.

Environmental and renewable energy groups, however, were still disappointed that the bill did not include more robust provisions to support low- or zero-emitting energy technologies, including updated or expanded incentives for energy storage, electric vehicles and offshore wind projects.

"We are very concerned that by failing to include these key credits the House will miss an opportunity to take meaningful action on climate change this Congress," the Natural Resources Defense Council's managing director of government affairs John Bowman said.

The bill "contains no significant tax support for clean energy technologies," Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell said. "This is undoubtedly a huge missed opportunity for the climate and a clear failure of leadership."


Despite the complaints, Ways and Means Committee members did not attach any new tax preferences for clean energy during Thursday's markup of H.R. 3301. But Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, indicated that he would work on a future bill to expand tax credits for renewable resources.

Neal said he wanted to hear from stakeholders and experts "to chart a path forward and produce legislation this year that will continue to grow our clean energy economy."

US Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, said the House tax extenders legislation was "the beginning of a process" and that "many of us on the committee would like to work with [Neal] towards finding an appropriate vehicle for increasing our investment in renewable energy."

Democrats have pushed to use the US tax code to bolster clean energy sources, particularly as broader legislation to address climate change has hit partisan gridlock and the Trump administration has worked to repeal regulations aimed at lowering carbon emissions.

In April, over 100 House Democrats urged Neal to advance a suite of clean energy tax breaks, including extensions to the wind production tax credit and a solar energy investment tax credit, or ITC, set to decline in the coming years. Although Congress agreed in 2015 to wind down those tax breaks, the Trump administration's decision to place tariffs on certain imported solar cells and panels, unwind climate rules, and withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change have fundamentally altered the market conditions guiding the 2015 agreement, the lawmakers said.


More recently, a group of US senators urged the extension of clean energy tax incentives set to phase down soon, including the Section 48 solar ITC and a Section 25 (d) residential renewable energy tax credit. Those credits should be prolonged until Congress can "implement a technology-neutral incentive or other federal legislation to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation," the senators said in a letter Wednesday.

"In the absence of any other national policy or program to deliver carbon reductions that are essential to making progress on climate change, we must continue the tax incentive policies that constitute the core federal policy and single most effective tool our nation has had for investing in renewables and growing the economy," said the letter, which was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and both the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Twenty Democratic senators signed the letter, including US presidential candidates Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California.

-- Molly Christian, S&P Global Market Intelligence,

-- Edited by Mark Watson,