The Iowa Senate approved two bills Thursday aimed at expanding renewable energy production in Iowa.
Senate File 2340, which triples the amount of Iowa’s solar energy tax credits, and Senate File 2343, which extends a deadline to complete wind energy and other projects, were approved on bipartisan votes without any opposition.
“Iowa is showing the nation that clean energy works,” said Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who was floor manager of both bills.
The two measures were sent to the House, where House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said they would be considered, although he didn’t make any promises about approval.
The solar bill will help develop a solar energy industry in Iowa which has been growing dramatically over the past six years , Hogg said. Iowa has gone from just a handful of solar installations to hundreds of installations at homes and businesses, he said. Meanwhile, the costs to buy such equipment have plunged by 70 percent since 2008, he added.
The legislation increases the annual limit for the existing Solar Energy System Tax Credit from $1.5 million to $4.5 million, retroactive to January 1, 2014. In addition, the bill provides that if the annual credit cap is not fully utilized in one year, the unused credits remain available in a future year, state fiscal analysts said.
This bill allows a taxpayer to claim an Iowa credit equal to 60 percent of the federal solar energy tax credit instead of the 50 percent currently allowed. It also increases the credit cap available for individual taxpayers from $3,000 to $5,000 and the credit cap available to business taxpayers from $15,000 to $20,000.
Under current law, the federal credit expires January 1, 2017, so only installations prior to that date are eligible for the Iowa credit, state analysts said. However, should Congress extend the credit past the current sunset, the Iowa tax credit will be extended automatically.
The second bill extends the deadline for putting in place a renewable energy facility in order to qualify for the state’s existing energy generation tax credit. The tax credit is equal to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of generated electricity. The bill extends the current deadline of Jan. 1, 2015 by two years, making facilities placed in service before Jan. 1, 2017 eligible for the tax credit.
The bill also adds methane gas, landfill gas, and biogas as allowed fuel sources for an existing 10 megawatt cogeneration subcategory of qualified facilities. Hogg said the bill would benefit an innovative cogeneration project at Golden Grains ethanol plant at Mason City by allowing landfill gas to be used as a fuel.
The Senate deferred action on Senate File 2344, a Democratic-sponsored proposal that would increase the tax credit for E15 ethanol-blended gasoline during the summer months, extend the bio-diesel production tax credit for five years, and add an advanced biofuel – biobutanol – to the Iowa’s renewable fuel industry. Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, requested the delay to permit more time to study the bill.