Renewables tax extensions up for vote

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Tuesday, March 13, on a proposal that would extend renewable energy tax incentives and restore the cash grant program that saved the industry during the depths of the recession.

The proposals are included in an amendment offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who introduced Senate Amendment 1812, which would extend the production tax credit (PTC) for one year, until the end of 2013, as well as extend the 1603 investment tax credit, the 48(C) manufacturing tax credit, in addition to including biodiesel and other provisions.

Amendment 1812 includes several provisions, including credits for biofuels and advanced manufacturing tax breaks. But the parts of most interest to renewables are a one-year extension of the PTC for wind energy and a restoration of the “cash grants in lieu of the credit” which expired at the end of last year.

The Transportation Bill is now before the Senate and has been peppered with more than 300 amendments on a whole host of issues related to energy, including the Keystone XL Pipeline, various tax breaks and electric vehicles.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) introduced an amendment that would end the PTC immediately as well as end all energy subsidies.

Under Senate rules, amendment need 60 votes for passage, so even if Democrats solidly backed the Stabenow proposal, several Republicans would need to break ranks with their caucus.

Wind advocates tried and failed to get the PTC included in the payroll tax cut extension in February and were looking for a vehicle to get it included as soon as possible. Another attempt in the lane duck session after the fall election was deemed too late to benefit the project and manufacturing pipeline for 2013.

The PTC for wind is set to expire at the end of 2012. The wind industry is experiencing an uncertain future without it, as developers seek to build projects to qualify before the expiration date. Project development for 2013 is set to disappear without the credit in placed and some manufacturers of components are promising substantial layoffs as their order books empty.