Renewable advocates call for PTC extension, expansion of solar eligibility

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014

Renewable energy companies and advocates are urging Congress to extend a bevy of expired tax breaks while expanding eligibility for the main solar energy tax credit with a modification similar to one applied last year to the credit for wind and other renewable sources.

One of the most lucrative renewable energy incentives, the production tax credit (PTC), expired at the end of last year, but activity in the wind sector is expected to remain high for at least the next several months because Congress earlier conditioned eligibility for the credit on when project construction begins, rather than when it ends.

Several dozen companies and advocacy groups today said the same eligibility shift should be applied to the investment tax credit (ITC), which primarily supports solar energy development, as part of a broader package to extend a dozen expired incentives. The solar ITC is available through 2016 under current law, but because it applies to projects only once they are placed in service, industry officials have said it is no longer providing an incentive for new utility-scale solar facilities because only those whose development is already well underway would be completed in time to qualify.

Tweaking eligibility for the solar credit would provide “investment certainty for projects that can take years to plan, just as similar language included in the most recent PTC extension allowed,” wrote Graham Richard, CEO of the advocacy group Advanced Energy Economy, in a letter to the House and Senate tax-writing committees that was signed by more than 60 company officials and outside advocates.

The letter also requests a multiyear extension of the expired PTC with a continued allowance for companies to claim the ITC as an alternative — a strategy popular among offshore wind developers, in particular. Other expired credits should be reinstated as well, the groups argue, including incentives for biofuels and energy-efficient homes and appliances.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is set to take over the Finance Committee following Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) resignation to become ambassador to China in the coming weeks. Wyden has said he wants to quickly move a “tax extenders” bill through his committee and has listed saving the clean energy incentives among his top goals.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have shown little appetite to deal with extenders in the near future, as Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) remains focused on the comprehensive tax reform proposal he has spent the last year drafting and is expected to release soon.