Obama seeks 'permanent' PTC

President Barack Obama in his 2015 federal budget proposal renews his call for Congress to make the federal renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) permanent.

Lawmakers at the end of last year let the 21 year-old incentive expire. It reduces the federal income taxes of qualified owners of wind or other renewable energy assets based on their electrical output - $23 per MWh, inflation adjusted, for the first decade of operation.

Most projects that will qualify for the 2013 PTC will get built this year and in 2015, benefitting from the provision that allows work of a “significant nature,” and 5% of the project’s cost to have been incurred by 31 December last year. Thereafter, a project is required to show “continuous construction.”

Since taking office in January 2009, Obama has sought to make the PTC a permanent part of the US tax code, arguing that the fossil fuel industry enjoys similar fiscal benefits.

Congress, however, has opted for one-year or two-year extensions even when Obama’s party controlled both houses in 2009 and 2010.

The wind industry continues to hold hope that lawmakers will renew the PTC in the run-up to 4 November national elections.  Republicans are aiming to regain control of the Senate, and extending the incentive for another cycle would play well in wind industry states such as Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri and South Dakota where sitting Democrats are vulnerable..

Obama’s $3.9trn budget blueprint, a near-$450bn spending increase from 2014, is more of a wish list  than a document that the Republican-held House of Representatives or the Senate will broadly support.  Still, some spending proposals for renewable energy may get backing. These include:

*More than $900m in basic clean energy research in the Office of Science;

*More than $500m to increase the use and reduce the costs of clean renewable power from solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy;

*$325m for the US Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency– Energy to support potentially transformative applied energy research;

*Technical assistance to help State and local decision-makers develop policies and regulations that encourage greater deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies, and alternative fuel vehicles.

The budget also provides $95m to the US Interior Department to review and permit new renewable energy projects on federal lands and waters. These funds will allow DOI to continue progress toward Obama’s goal of permitting 20GW of renewable energy capacity and related transmission infrastructure by 2020.