The U.S. Senate's tax-bill compromise includes a one-year extension of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's 1603 program, known as the cash-grant program, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
SEIA and other renewable energy organizations have been intensively lobbying for the program's extension, citing its critical role in supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry. The program offers a cash grant to solar developers in lieu of the investment tax credit.
‘To date, the program has facilitated the construction of more than 1,100 solar projects in 42 states,’ noted SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch in a statement. ‘At a minimal cost to the tax payer, the 1603 program has supported $18 billion in investment in new renewable energy projects throughout the country and has created tens of thousands of jobs.’
Resch applauded the efforts of Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; John Ensign, R-Nev.; and George LeMieux, R-Fla., in helping to convince their fellow senators to include provisions for the cash-grant program in their final version of the tax bill.
Earlier this week, a coalition of 17 senators, led by Feinstein, sent a letter calling for the extension of the cash-grant program. The senators wrote that they would ‘have difficulty supporting tax legislation currently being drafted for Senate consideration that fails to include an extension of the Treasury grant program.’
Without the cash-grant program, ‘banks are able to extract a significant portion of the renewable energy tax credits' value from renewable energy companies,’ the senators pointed out in their letter. ‘A grant or direct pay program gives renewable energy companies 100 percent of government support, instead of diverting much of the value into the already deep pockets of big banks.’
The current version of the bill is scheduled for a Senate vote on Monday. President Obama has expressed confidence that the bill will pass, but approval is not yet certain, Politico says. Some Democratic senators still object to other measures in the bill, as well as the manner in which Obama directly negotiated the legislation with Republicans.