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By Ari Natter
Nov. 24 — A phaseout of both the wind production tax credit and the solar investment tax credit are said to be under consideration by congressional leaders in both the House and Senate as part of a broader deal to extend dozens of expired tax credits, a Democrat leadership aide and lobbyists briefed on the issue told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 24.
Details of the proposal were still fluid, but talks were said to focus on gradually ramping down the 2.3 cent per kilowatt-hour production tax credit and the 30 percent solar investment tax credit in exchange for Democrats making permanent some temporary tax credits backed by Republicans.
“It's still in the paper exchanging stage right now. There hasn't been anything agreed to,” said the Democrat aide.
The solar investment tax credit, which automatically drops from 30 percent to 10 percent for commercial projects and expires for residential solar projects at the end of 2016, has been the subject of fierce lobbying by companies such as SolarCity Corp. and others in the solar industry, that want to see it extended and expanded (138 ECR, 7/20/15).
Failing to do so, they argue, would put in jeopardy a record expansion of solar installations in the U.S. and the employment and other benefits that go along with it.
Some lobbyists familiar with the plan said the solar credit would be ramped down during a five-year period ending after 2019 and would include a “commence construction” clause that would allow projects that started in that time frame to receive the credit, though they cautioned those details were subject to change. In addition, the 10 percent credit for commercial projects would expire after 2019 as well, they said.
Currently, projects can receive the credit only after they are completed.
Lobbyists differed on the length of time the wind production tax credit would be phased out over, with some saying the credit would expire after a four-year period ending in 2018 and others saying they were told it would go until 2019.
A deal negotiated in 2014 by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) would have phased out the production tax credit over a four-year period, with a full extension of the credit for two years, and then its value decreasing to 80 percent the following year, then 60 percent in its final year. At the time Reid served as Senate Majority Leader and Camp was the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The phaseout plan did not come up for a vote due to White House opposition to unrelated aspects of the deal, and it wasn't publicly released.
It remains to be seen if the solar and wind industry would be willing to go along with the plan as outlined.
The American Wind Energy Association, a trade group that represents companies such as Florida-based wind farm developer NextEra Energy Inc. and turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S, was said to have held a conference call on the prospect of the phaseout Nov. 24. A spokesman for the group did not return a message seeking comment.
In a statement on the November 2014 phaseout the group said in a statement: “A phaseout of sufficient length and design that provides an appropriate glide path is something that could also work for the wind industry. AWEA welcomes analyzing any proposal that is long-term and fair.”
Dan Whitten, a spokesman for the Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents companies such as Vivint Solar Inc. and BrightSource Energy Inc., didn't directly say if the trade group would support the five-year phase-down lobbyists said was being discussed as part of a broader tax extenders deal.
“The solar investment tax credit has been critical to the growth of the solar industry and it will continue to be critical,” Whitten said in an e-mail to Bloomberg BNA. “Today nearly 200,000 Americans are employed at 8,000 solar companies. We will continue to work with members of Congress in both parties to make sure that policies put into place seize upon the vast opportunities solar energy offers to grow the economy, create American jobs and improve the environment.”
The deal is part of a broader effort to extend dozens of temporary tax credits that expired at the end of 2014, with some pushing to make some of those credits, such as a research and development tax credit, permanent.
The Senate Finance Committee voted in July to approve a $96 billion package of tax extenders, including an extension of the wind production tax credit estimated to cost $10.5 billion (139 ECR, 7/21/15).
A markup of extenders legislation by the House Ways and Means Committee was said to be possible the week of Nov. 30.
Spokesmen for both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee did not respond to a request for comment.
The Senate Finance Committee voted July 21 to reinstate and extend the wind production tax credit through 2016 as part of a broader $96 billion package of tax extenders.
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