Tax tweak sought to aid Puerto Rico recovery

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 8, 2018

A top residential solar provider is urging Congress to change a key tax break to aid Puerto Rico’s ongoing power restoration efforts months after a pair of hurricanes destroyed the island’s electric grid.

Sunnova Energy Corp., which says it’s the largest home solar provider in Puerto Rico, today called on lawmakers to temporarily convert the investment tax credit (ITC) into a cash grant for the island and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both of which suffered widespread damage from hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“This would spur the development and construction of resilient, renewable energy options for businesses and residents in Puerto Rico and the USVI,” said Sunnova CEO William Berger in a statement that called for the change to hitch a ride on the next disaster supplemental bill.

The company’s proposal would limit the change to U.S. territories recovering from disasters, while sunsetting the tweak after three years.

Sunnova’s plan comes as Congress readies to try again to pass an $81 billion disaster supplemental bill to help U.S. states and territories recover from the fall’s spate of natural disasters.

The House passed the bill last month, but the Senate punted on the measure, following complaints from Democrats over the aid levels for Puerto Rico and from Texas’ senators, who want changes made to benefit the Lone Star State.

The supplemental could be joined with whatever spending bill materializes to head off a government shutdown by Jan. 19, when the current stopgap spending bill expires.

Republicans on both sides of the Capitol have signaled support for tax changes to help Puerto Rico, but Democrats say the GOP tax overhaul signed into law last month will harm the island’s recovery.

An assortment of energy interest groups are also pressing for action this month on a tax extenders package that was introduced in the Senate last month.

That bill, offered by Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would add an assortment of “orphaned” energy sources, including fuel cells, small wind, and combined heat and power facilities, to the phaseout schedule for the ITC that was agreed to in a 2015 tax deal (E&E Daily, Dec. 21, 2017).

The extenders bill is also among the legislative items that Senate Republicans hope to see signed into law this month, possibly as part of a broader spending deal.