DECEMBER 21st, 2010 – The United States congress reached a compromise Thursday night, passing a major tax-cut deal including an extension of hotly-contested “Bush tax cuts”. The bill, which was signed into law over the weekend by President Obama, also included a one-year extension of the popular Federal incentive program for alternative energy projects. Solar and wind companies nationwide breathed a collective sigh of relief after the 1603 Treasury grant program was piggybacked into the overall package by the House of Representatives following intense lobbying on behalf of the renewables industry.
The program, which would have expired at the end of the year, covers up to 30% of the cost of renewable energy projects, which supporters claim has created over 100,000 jobs and more than $18 Billion in investments for thousands of clean generation facilities all across the United States. “Orders will be on the rise for new wind power, and investors will put more capital into the U.S. economy,” said Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association.
The run-up to the vote had been a nail-biting experience as developers rushed to meet the deadline in the event the extension failed to pass, said Rhone Resch, chief executive for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “It was kind of a roller coaster there,” he said. “There were a lot of projects that were getting close to being canceled. Now, this gives them some flexibility to get their financing together and start construction at a time when they need it most.”
Industry leaders are hopeful and may see this most-recent triumph as sign of overall bipartisan support for renewable energy. As vital as the 1603 Treasury grant program has proven to be, they’re likely already looking forward to another extension next year. But for now, the one-year reprieve will do quite nicely, Resch said. “It keeps the lights on, keeps us growing,” he said. “There are a lot of happy people in the industry today, and 2011 is looking like it’ll be a true breakout year.”
Original Reporting by Tiffany Hsu at the Los Angel Times: