Cantwell, Senators Propose Extending Successful Renewable Energy Program

Bipartisan amendment would create at least 65,000 clean-energy jobs

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) along with co-sponsors Senators George LeMieux (R-FL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) proposed extending a program proven to create clean-energy jobs and help diversify our nation’s energy mix. The proposal, an amendment to the pending “tax extenders” bill, would create at least 65,000 jobs in the solar energy sector alone, according to an independent study. It would extend the Clean Energy Treasury Grant Program (TGP) through the end of 2012. Set to expire at the end of this year, the highly successful Treasury Grant Program was created as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to promote and maintain strong growth in the renewable energy sector during tough economic times. The program provides cash grants in lieu of tax credits for renewable energy projects. The economic meltdown has prevented utilities from using production and investment tax credits for clean-energy development. Extending the TGP now would prevent a slow-down in the rate of project development in anticipation of its impending expiration. The amendment also would make non-profit power producers eligible for the TGP. These non-tax-paying public power producers and rural electric co-ops, which serve over 25 percent of Americans, are currently excluded from receiving grants under the program. Click here to view a 2-page summary of the amendment.
“The evidence is clear that the Treasury Grant Program is one of the most successful in the entire 2009 stimulus bill in terms of incentivizing industry to invest in renewable energy alternatives,” Senator Cantwell said. “Extending this program for another two years will create tens of thousands of jobs and enable enough renewable power to come online to power millions of homes.  This bipartisan amendment is fully paid for, and along with a predictable price on carbon, will jumpstart America’s urgently needed transition to a cleaner, more diverse 21st century energy economy.”
“We need to continue to diversify and develop our nation’s clean energy resources. This program sets us in the right direction,” said Senator LeMieux. “This creates jobs and fosters clean, domestic, renewable energy without adding to our debt. Helping diversify our sources of energy through incentives that do not burden taxpayers is a positive solution.”
 “The clean energy sector is the next frontier in jobs creation, so we need to ensure that developers can access financing to launch wind, solar and geothermal projects and put people to work,” Senator Feinstein said. “The Recovery Act grant program run by the Treasury Department has proven to be one of the most successful steps we’ve taken to encourage investment in this sector. So far, the program has helped to bring 4,250 megawatts of clean power online and is expected to generate more than 143,000 green jobs by the end of the year, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Yet if we don’t extend this grant program, which is slated to expire at the end of the year, we could see these types of projects stalled or shelved completely as affordable credit evaporates. That’s why I’m working with Senators Cantwell and Lemieux on this timely amendment.”
Prior to the economic downturn, clean energy developers relied on ‘tax equity partnerships’ with Wall Street to take advantage of clean-energy tax incentives. Under this system, the big banks often kept about a third to half of the value of these U.S. taxpayer-funded incentives. In 2008, the financial crisis froze the $8 billion ‘tax equity’ market, jeopardizing billions of dollars in clean energy investment. The Treasury Grant Program proved an effective replacement for these partnerships and provided a much more direct and effective use of clean energy tax incentives.
A May 2010 study by EuPD Research found that a two-year TGP extension would create nearly 65,000 jobs in the solar industry alone and would result in enough additional solar generation to power more than 1.2 million homes. According to a recent Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report, the TGP program will have created more than 143,000 jobs from its inception to the end of this year. The program has awarded grants to a wide range of projects including biomass, combined heat and power, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal electric, solar heat and hot water, wind, landfill gas, hydropower, geothermal, and fuel cell. The bipartisan amendment is still being scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation, but the cost is anticipated to be minimal and more than offset by ending the ability for oil companies that have revenues over $100 million a year to count their contributions to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund as a business expense that they can use to reduce their corporate tax liabilities. 
Please click on the following hyperlinks to view letters of support from industry organizations:
Solar Energy Industries Association, The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, The Large Public Power Council, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, American Public Power Association, a letter from 26 environmental organizations on behalf of their millions of members and activists, and a letter from these four renewable energy trade organizations: American Wind Energy Association, Geothermal Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, and National Hydropower Association.