Renewable-energy pros plead president, Congress for tax credit

Never mind the environment. We're losing money, say renewable-energy businesspeople who are trying to prevent a tax credit from lapsing.

Heavy hitters in the renewable-energy business have scheduled a press conference on Tuesday to publicly lobby for long-sought policies, arguing that the industry and U.S. competitiveness are at risk.

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) organized the press conference, which will include well-known energy investors and business people from General Electric, Credit Suisse, Google, and clean-tech venture capital firm Nth Power. It will be held at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), which is hosted by the U.S. government.

The renewable-energy industry has been thwarted at least two times in efforts to renew an existing federal tax credit for renewable-energy projects that is set to expire at the end of 2008. Projects include solar energy, wind, biofuels, and other renewable sources.

And at this point, industrialists appear to be getting downright irate over the prospect of that tax credit lapsing.

Why? Because they are losing money.

ACORE sent a letter to Congress, signed by 500 "industry leaders," calculating that 42 gigawatts of renewable-energy projects are in jeopardy because of the uncertainty around the investment tax credit and another production tax credit. That's enough power for 16 million homes.

If the industry isn't developed, "green collar" jobs will go to other countries, and American consumers may end up importing more renewable-energy products than they already do, ACORE argues.

Called in to make a public case for renewing the investment tax credit and production tax credit at the press conference are: Credit Suisse Vice Chairman John Cavalier; energy venture capitalist Nancy Floyd from Nth Power; the head of GE's renewable-energy financing division, Kevin Walsh; former California Energy Commissioner John Geesman; and Dan Reicher, director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org, who is also co-chair of ACORE.

But for all the high-powered pressure, prospects are not looking very good.

The House earlier this month passed another bill which, like previous attempts, proposes paying for the tax credit by closing an existing tax incentive on oil and gas companies. The Senate has twice failed to pass the measure, and President Bush threatened to veto such a measure late last year.

Even the head of the Solar Energy Industry Association of America, Rhone Resch, predicted that paying for tax incentives by trying to pull back oil company tax breaks is unlikely to succeed.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen called the policy uncertainty "really embarrassing."

At an investor conference last month, Resch said that the solar industry is trying to create a coalition of utilities, homebuilders, and environmentalists to get a long-term set of financial rules in place. Worst case scenario is to try to get a one-year extension at the end of this year, he said.

Meanwhile, President Bush is scheduled to address WIREC conference attendees on Wednesday morning.

The president signed an energy bill with large incentives for the production of biofuels, but at this point it's unlikely he'll have good news for renewable-power backers.

 

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