The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee portion of the omnibus includes $37.2 billion, $3 billion above 2015 enacted levels and more than $1 billion above the president’s request. Within that pot of money, the Department of Energy would see an almost $800 million increase for energy programs, helping to boost the agency’s total budget to $29.7 billion
Wind and solar advocates said five-year renewals of their tax breaks would provide needed certainty to spur further growth. “This plan will drive more development, and near-term prospects look strong as utilities, major customers and municipalities seek more low-cost, emissions-free renewable energy,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, an industry group. A five-year extension of the solar-tax credit will lead to more than $125 billion in new private sector investment and add as many as 140,000 jobs, said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
While the spending package boosted funding for fossil and nuclear research, programs for wind and solar were not so lucky. The omnibus provided about $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy, including a total of $241 million for solar and about $95 million for wind power. “As the deal stands, at 88 percent of 2015 budget levels and 66 percent of the budget proposed by the administration, $95 million is still short of what is needed to support the critical technology R&D work and other areas of [DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy] wind program,” said John Anderson, American Wind Energy Association senior director for permitting and environmental affairs issues.
The language would extend the production tax credit (PTC) at 100 percent for 2015 and 2016, while reducing its value by 20 percent each successive year until 2020. The legislation would extend the investment tax credit (ITC), which allows developers to write off 30 percent of the cost of a solar facility, at that level for three years, while shrinking the allowance to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. Democrats scored a victory by winning a modification to the ITC that will allow facilities to qualify for the credit when they “commence construction” rather than when they begin to produce power.
After years of legislative gridlock on energy policy, Congress is on the verge of approving a historic compromise giving both parties key wins in what has become a ceaseless war of attrition between fossil fuels and renewable interests. The blockbuster omnibus and tax package that could be signed into law as early as this weekend would repeal the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, while also extending for five years the renewable production and investment tax credits for wind and solar — sectors that are booming in response to climate change and falling costs but have been slowed by uncertainty over their on-again, off-again tax credits.
“That’s my understanding, that there is agreement on both tax extenders and the omnibus” spending bill,” Representative John Kline told reporters upon leaving a closed-door meeting of House Republicans. Representative Ann Wagner confirmed that in return for a repeal of the oil export ban, Democrats won temporary tax breaks to boost wind and solar development, an important priority for President Barack Obama in the aftermath of a Paris climate change deal that calls for significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Britain’s top court will decide on Wednesday whether to back U.S. Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump’s bid to stop wind farms being built near his luxury Scottish golf resort amid a growing spat with politicians in his mother’s homeland. The decision comes after a week in which his call to deny Muslims entry to the United States has resulted in his being stripped of two Scottish honorary positions, prompted a record petition calling for him to be banned from Britain, and drawn a rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron and others.
A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency found that achieving a 36 percent share of renewable energy by 2030 would provide half of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to stay within the 2-degrees threshold. The U.S. has a chance to be a leader in renewable energy deployment given its sheer size and resources. And some states are leading the way. Olivet Nazarene University’s engineering department ranked the top 10 green states in terms of renewable energy.
Plummeting oil and natural gas prices have whipsawed the energy industry, forcing cancellations of billions of dollars of projects, late payments on loans, and over a quarter of a million layoffs worldwide. On Monday, with domestic gas prices hitting their lowest level since 2001, Cubic Energy, a company that produces natural gas and oil, became the latest of several dozen producers to file for bankruptcy protection this year. Even a company the size of Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation’s biggest producers, is struggling to reduce its $11.6 billion debt load.
A Norwegian firm with extensive experience building wind farms in Europe will construct the first U.S. offshore wind farm on the Great Lakes, supplying up to 18 megawatts of electricity from turbines sited on Lake Erie near Cleveland. The wind farm, to be known as the Icebreaker project, is projected to cost $120 million and will be a critical test of wind power’s viability on the Great Lakes, according to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), a public-private partnership based in northeastern Ohio.