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Solar Is Still
A Big Priority

President Barack Obama has once again made clean energy a priority in his most recent budget, which outlines his spending plan for fiscal-year 2014.

A fact sheet released with the budget describes some of its components that are intended to make the U.S. “the leader in the clean energy sector and bring about a clean energy economy with new companies and jobs.”

Since Obama was elected in 2008, the amount of U.S. electricity produced by solar and other renewable energy sources has already doubled, and the price of solar modules has fallen by more than 75%, the fact sheet notes.

In his 2014 budget, Obama increases funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) clean energy activities to $6.2 billion - more than 40% over its 2012 level (as enacted). Funding for solar and other forms of renewable energy is raised by 30% to $7.9 billion across all agencies.

Specifically, the budget sets aside $615 million to “increase the use and reduce the costs of” solar and other types of renewable energy, the fact sheet explains. The DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would see its funding increased to $379 million, while various programs throughout the U.S. Department of Agriculture would receive funding in order to support clean energy deployment in rural areas.

The U.S. Department of the Interior would receive increased funding as well, including $100 million to “maintain capacity to review and permit new renewable energy projects on federal lands and waters,” the fact sheet says.

In addition, Obama calls for a permanent tax incentive for renewable energy production and tax credits for advanced energy manufacturing.

“To provide a strong, consistent incentive to encourage investments in renewable energy technologies and to help meet our goal to double generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources by 2020, the budget would make permanent the tax credit for the production of renewable electricity,” the fact sheet explains. An additional $2.5 billion in credits would be provided for investments in clean energy manufacturing projects.

The budget would also repeal certain tax subsidies given to fossil fuel producers, estimated at more than $4 billion annually.

“Many of these proposals are not new, and some have been rejected,” notes ML Strategies in its analysis of the budget. “The repeal of $40 billion in tax provisions for fossil fuel extraction and refining is opposed by most Republicans and oil-state Democrats.

“In light of these realities, the budget remains an aspirational document highlighting the administration’s priorities, since the actual appropriation levels depend on Congress,” the company concludes.

The budget won praise from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which applauded the president for his “continued support” of solar.

“We praise the president for emphasizing that a transition to sustainable energy sources is vital - and that the U.S. must lead it,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, in a statement.

“We urge Congress to work with the administration to pass and implement sensible energy policy,” Resch added.

 

Senate Confirms
Secretary Picks

By a unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ernest Moniz as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. Senators also confirmed Sally Jewell as the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Moniz, who replaces Steven Chu, previously served as Under Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton. He has also directed the Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Moniz in March. In a statement, the president said he is pleased by the confirmation.

“Dr. Moniz is a world-class scientist with expertise in a range of energy sources and a leader with a proven record of bringing prominent thinkers and innovators together to advance new energy solutions,” Obama said. “He also shares my conviction that the United States must lead the world in developing more sustainable sources of energy that create new jobs and new industries, and in responding to the threat of global climate change.”

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, also issued a statement on the confirmation.

“In today’s combative political environment, [Moniz’s] selection in the Senate stands as a testament to his abilities, as well as to the respect he brings to his new position,” Resch said. “We look forward to working with Secretary Moniz on policies and opportunities which will create new American jobs, expand the U.S. economy and provide energy security for our nation.”

Jewell, who served as president and CEO of outdoor apparel provider REI, replaces Ken Salazar, who recently stepped down. Resch applauded the confirmation.

“Given her extraordinary background and devotion to conservation efforts, Sally Jewell will make an outstanding Secretary of the Interior,” he said in a statement. “She’s smart, successful and visionary - all qualities which are needed to be the steward of America’s vast natural resources.”

 

Lawmakers Propose
Meaty Legislation

U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have re-introduced the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (MLP Parity Act).

According to the senators, the legislation would allow investors in renewable energy projects access to a decades-old tax advantage that is currently available only to investors in fossil-fuel-based energy projects.

An MLP is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership but whose ownership interests are traded like corporate stock on a market, the senators explain. By statute, MLPs have only been available to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction and pipeline projects. These projects get access to capital at a lower cost and are more liquid than traditional financing approaches to energy projects, making them highly effective at attracting private investment.

However, the senators add, investors in renewable energy projects have been explicitly prevented from forming MLPs, starving a growing portion of the U.S.’ domestic energy sector of the capital it needs to build and grow.

“The bipartisan Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act levels the playing field to help clean and renewable energy projects compete fairly with traditional energy projects,” Coons says. “This market-driven solution supports the all-of-the-above energy strategy we need to power our country for generations to come.

“Our legislation will unleash private capital, create jobs and modernize our tax code,” he continues. “That’s why it has earned broad support from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as academics, outside experts, business leaders and investors.”

The senators say the re-introduced MLP Parity Act is improved and expanded from the version introduced in 2012. In addition to providing greater clarity on how expansion of the law would be implemented, the bill further widens the scope of projects that qualify for MLP status to include energy-efficient buildings, waste-heat-to-power, carbon capture and storage, and biochemicals.

Separately, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has proposed H.R.1424, the Security in Energy and Manufacturing Act of 2013 (SEAM Act), which would extend the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program.

“The program provides a 30 percent tax credit, or grant in lieu of a tax credit, to companies constructing, expanding or retrofitting their facilities that manufacture renewable energy,” Sinema said during her introduction of the bill, according to a transcript posted by her office.

“We have seen our manufacturing base erode as a result of increased global competition,” she continued. “Not only will the SEAM Act help us rebuild our manufacturing industry, but it will also provide an opportunity to do so while exploring responsible energy production.

“Energy innovation is quickly becoming one of the world’s largest industries, and countries all over the world are purchasing billions of dollars’ worth of wind turbines, solar panels and other energy technologies,” she added. “I want to see those products made in the United States and for our country to remain competitive.” S

Policy Watch

Solar Is Still A Big Priority

 

 

 

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