Providing the most prominent acknowledgement to date that comprehensive tax reform may not happen before the 113th Congress adjourns, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus last week told a private meeting of committee members that they likely would have to address a raft of temporary tax breaks in isolation next year, a senior Republican on the panel told Greenwire today. The Montana Democrat’s acknowledgement carries wide implications for wind energy developers, biofuels producers and building efficiency companies that rely on the temporary tax breaks known as extenders.
As the Obama administration seeks to clear a path for more renewable energy projects, it has increasingly found itself caught between two staunch allies: the wind energy industry and environmental organizations. Tensions between both groups and the administration have risen since a new federal rule was announced this month allowing wind farms to lawfully kill bald and golden eagles under 30-year permits.
Here, in the heart of coal country, at the center of the natural gas boom and the former foundation of U.S. manufacturing might, a long-shuttered auto plant now houses the Aquion Energy factory. Its workers are building innovative batteries to store solar- and wind-generated electricity. Yet Aquion’s best customers are across the globe, not down the street. The battery manufacturing plant sits southeast of Pittsburgh, atop the Marcellus Shale, the rich geographic formation that is one of the epicenters of the natural gas boom. So the battery storage systems the company makes aren’t likely to be used here, a region brimming with abundant natural gas reserves and reliant on coal-fired plants for energy.
MidAmerican Energy’s plan to build 448 wind turbines in Iowa has created the world’s largest order for onshore wind turbines, says the utility and Siemens, the company that will provide the equipment. MidAmerican plans to complete five Iowa wind energy projects by 2015, an expansion that will cost $1.9 billion. The Des Moines-based power company will create a total of 1,050 megawatts of energy, enough power for 317,000 U.S. households, the company said. The project is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs over two years and add 40 permanent jobs.
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the power unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (A:US), agreed to buy wind turbines valued at more than $1 billion from Siemens AG (SIE) for five projects in Iowa, in the supplier’s biggest order to date for land-based wind equipment.
The decision by Warren Buffett’s utility company to order about $1 billion of wind turbines for projects in Iowa shows how a drop in equipment costs is making renewable energy more competitive with power from fossil fuels. Turbine prices have fallen 26 percent worldwide since the first half of 2009, bringing wind power within 5.5 percent of the cost of electricity from coal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., yesterday announced an order for 1,050 megawatts of Siemens AG wind turbines in the industry’s largest order to date for land-based gear.
Apparently not content to simply ease into the holiday recess, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is expected tomorrow to release a draft tax reform bill focused on the energy sector, Senate aides said yesterday. Details of the draft are being closely held. A Finance Committee aide declined to provide any details yesterday, and several other aides to senators with an interest in energy policy said they had not seen the details of the draft.
“If a broader tax code overhaul cannot be achieved by year’s end, it is imperative that these key clean energy tax incentives are renewed as soon as possible,” they wrote. “These tax credits have helped scale up production and drive down the cost of clean energy technologies. They remain critical to addressing the market failures that prevent cost-effective, market-ready technologies from being deployed to their full potential.”
NextEra Energy Resources, the largest wind energy developer in the United States, said it is in the very early stages of looking at Douglas County as a site for a future wind farm. “We have talked to some landowners,” said Steve Stengel, a spokesman for the Florida-based company. “We haven’t really even started measuring the wind yet, so it’s a fairly lengthy process.”
ENR Chairman Ron Wyden would not comment on the forthcoming paper but said he wants all the players in the energy sector to have more “parity” in the tax code. “You’ve got to make it possible for all of the different energy sources to get out of the gate, and if you have a set of energy sources that are permanently subsidized at a very high level … how are you going to move to a competitive landscape?” Wyden yesterday hinted he may push Congress to consider some sort of tax extenders package if broader tax reform efforts drag out too long. “If you didn’t have tax reform and you didn’t have extenders, you’d do crushing damage to solar, wind and renewables,” Wyden told ME in the Capitol.