Monday, August 6, 2007

U.S. House Passes RPS and Extends Solar Tax Credits

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a tax bill (HR 969) Saturday that would extend renewable energy tax credits and encourage energy efficiency, paying for itself by repealing $16 billion in tax breaks to oil and gas companies. The House passed the tax provisions by a vote of 221-189. Earlier it had approved, 241-172, a companion energy package (HR 969) aimed at boosting energy efficiency and expanding use of biofuels, wind power and other renewable energy sources through a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The two bills, passed at an unusual Saturday session as lawmakers prepared to leave town for their month-long summer recess, will be merged with legislation passed by the Senate in June.

HR 2776 extends renewable energy production tax credits to 2012, costing around $6.6 billion over 10 years, and extends a 30% tax credit for solar energy and fuel cell investment for eight years to 2016, costing around $563 million.

On one of the most contentious and heavily lobbied issues, the House voted for HR 969 to require investor-owned electric utilities nationwide to generate at least 11% of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind or biofuels and a maximum of 4% for energy efficiency for a combined 15% RPS, or perhaps more accurately a "REPS" (Renewable energy and Efficiency Portfolio Standard). More than 20 states have similar standards in place (see the Database for State Incentives for Renewable Energy or DSIRE) or under development, but proponents say a federal standard is needed to rapidly drive increased use of renewable energy.

With the Senate version of the legislation already complete (but lacking an RPS or solar tax credit provisions), passage in the House leads to a conference committee stage in the fall and possible final passage of a reconciled bill in late October or early November.

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