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Trump signs legislation to boost DOE funding, extend wind power credit

President Donald Trump signed a "minibus" appropriations package into law on Dec. 20 that increases funding for U.S. Department of Energy research efforts and extends the federal wind energy production tax credit by a year through 2020.

The bill, H.R. 1865, also known as the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, provides fiscal-year 2020 funding for federal agencies, including the DOE, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The legislation provides $38.59 billion for the DOE in the fiscal year that runs through Sept. 30, 2020, up by $2.9 billion from fiscal year 2019 and $7.0 billion above what Trump requested for the agency. The bill also appropriates record-high funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known as ARPA-E, an initiative to support transformational new energy technologies.

The ARPA-E program, which Trump has repeatedly called to defund, will receive $425 million in fiscal year 2020 under H.R. 1865, an increase of $59 million from the 2019 enacted level.

In addition, the bill provides $13.5 billion in discretionary appropriations for Interior, a $545 million bump up from the prior year and $2.1 billion above the White House's budget request. Within that total, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees leasing of federal lands for energy production, would get $1.4 billion, rising by $24 million from the 2019 enacted amount.

The approved bill again rejected a proposal by Trump to sell power marketing agencies including the Bonneville Power Administration, providing funding as requested.

Furthermore, H.R. 1865 provides $9.06 billion for the EPA in fiscal year 2020, the highest annual appropriations since fiscal year 2010 and $2.83 billion above what Trump proposed.

Also wrapped within the spending deal was an agreement to secure pensions and healthcare for tens of thousands of U.S. coal miners and their dependents.

Energy tax credits

Along with funding for federal agencies, the minibus contained a manager's amendment to extend certain tax credits, including for some renewable resources.

The tax package includes a one-year extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit, or PTC, which had been set to expire after 2019. In 2015, Congress agreed to set the PTC at 2.3 cents/kWh for 2016 and gradually ramp down the credit to 40% of its full value in 2019. But H.R. 1865 restores the PTC to 60% of its full value for facilities that enter service in the 2020 calendar year.

One-year tax credit extensions were also included for other renewable energy technologies, such as open- and closed-loop biomass and geothermal facilities. And in a win for corn-state lawmakers, the legislation restored a $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit, retroactively reinstating the credit for 2017-2019 and extending the credit through 2022.

H.R. 1865 will also allow offshore wind facilities to claim a federal investment tax credit, or ITC, in lieu of the PTC for another year, although the bill excluded the wind industry's call for a standalone ITC specifically for offshore wind farms. Clean energy advocates were also disappointed the manager's amendment left out an ITC for stand-alone energy storage projects, did not raise the cap for electric vehicles that can qualify for a car purchase tax credit and excluded an extension to a federal solar energy investment tax credit.

Defense bill also signed into law

Trump on Dec. 20 also signed a compromise U.S. defense spending bill into law that included energy- and climate-related measures.

The latest National Defense Authorization Act, which funds defense spending through fiscal year 2020, designated $8 million to support technologies that capture carbon dioxide from seawater and the air and convert it into clean fuels for use at military facilities and in vehicles.

The defense bill also contained legislation that requires the DOE to research how the U.S. power sector could rely more on manual, nondigital technologies in order to isolate the grid from cyberattacks.