Solar and wind seek big wins before and after Biden takes office

Source: By Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2020

SOLAR AND WIND SEEK BIG WINS BEFORE AND AFTER BIDEN TAKES OFFICE: Renewable energy groups are plotting big gains during the Biden administration, but they also don’t want lawmakers to forget about the emergency relief they say they need before Biden even takes office.

In the next few months, the renewable energy industry is operating with a foot in two separate doors. Groups like the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association are seeking policies from Biden on day one that set ambitious national goals for renewable energy deployment and that remove barriers to development, including Trump’s tariffs on foreign-made solar panels.

They’re also asking Biden to strongly lobby Congress for extensions to existing tax credits and creation of new tax credits (for offshore wind and energy storage, for example).

But they don’t want Congress, especially Democratic lawmakers, to bank on bolder action on renewables under Biden and neglect emergency relief the clean energy industry says it can’t wait on.

In a letter to congressional leaders yesterday, dozens of clean energy groups called on the lawmakers to include support for clean energy in must-pass legislation before the end of this year. The groups — which included SEIA, AWEA, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and many other clean energy advocates — are asking Congress to extend clean energy tax credits to account for coronavirus-related delays and include a direct pay option to bypass struggling tax equity markets.

“Thirteen percent of clean energy workers have, through no fault of their own, lost their jobs due to COVID-19,” said Bill Parsons, ACORE’s chief operating officer.

“Every week that passes without the emergency relief they need means further delays or outright cancellations of the projects they would otherwise be working on,” he told Abby. “If lawmakers’ goal is to support workers hurt by the pandemic and accelerate the nation’s economic recovery, then clean energy workers should be included in any must-pass legislation this year.”

It could be a tricky message politically:Renewable energy groups could have to both persuade some Republican lawmakers not to block their requests as a “liberal wish list” and convince Democratic lawmakers not to hold out for political reasons (namely, the prospects of something bigger on clean energy if Democrats win the Georgia runoffs and after Biden takes office).

“We have really made the case on the Hill that this pandemic has impacted our ability to deploy,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president. She told reporters yesterday that even though solar is still growing, the pandemic has had a “detrimental impact” on the industry and employment. “Those two things can be true at the same time.”

Hopper added she thinks there is a “pretty clear understanding” among lawmakers “that extending the investment tax credit and making it refundable will help address the challenges that our industry has faced, but more importantly, really provide a roadmap for getting people back to work.”

Renewable energy groups are readying a more aggressive clean energy push under Biden: SEIA, for example, is having talks with the Biden transition team about its priorities, Hopper said. The solar group has laid out a number of day-one requests for Biden, including removing Trump’s section 201 tariffs on foreign solar panels, installing a “climate czar” in the White House, and sending legislation to Congress to extend solar tax credits by five years and create a new incentive for energy storage.

AWEA, in a policy roadmap released yesterday, is asking Biden to issue executive orders in his first 100 days that set a national goal to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050, commit the federal government to buy 35% renewable power by 2025, and expand renewable energy development on federal lands.

The wind energy group doesn’t directly ask for an extension of its existing tax incentives, which expire this year, but it is seeking new incentives for offshore wind and a technology-neutral clean energy incentive.