Last Thursday, July 3rd, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued its finalized loan guarantee solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. DOE made $2.5 billion in loan guarantee authority directly available through the solicitation, but indicated that an expansion of this financing up to $4 billion is possible depending on how much it can stretch an appropriated credit subsidy on applications. This suite of loan guarantees has been a highly sought after item as Secretary Ernest Moniz and other DOE officials have repeatedly stressed the Department’s focus on renewable and energy efficiency research and financing. DOE support for research and investment in these areas can be seen as an extension of the President’s Climate Action Plan, as the Administration strives to cut carbon emissions. Read More
Senate consideration of legislation to reinstate 55 expired incentives ground to a halt on May 15. The Senate fell 7 votes short of ending a Republican filibuster. While many Republicans support the underlying package, they are opposed to efforts by Senate Majority Leader Reid to limit amendments.
The bill includes a dozen energy-related measures such as the renewable electricity production tax credit and biofuels credits.
Negotiations between key Democrats and Republicans will resume the week of May 19 in hopes of reaching an agreement to end the filibuster and allow the tax package to come up for votes. If the two sides remain at a standoff, the bill may not come up for a vote until after the November election.
In March 2014, the German government presented the details of its plans for changes in the country’s renewable energy support scheme. The planned legislation (the “Draft”), which passed the cabinet on 8 April 2014, seeks to curb the increase of energy costs and to promote a stronger market integration of renewable energy production.
Under the Renewable Energies Act (“EEG”), renewable energy producers are entitled to fixed feed-in tariffs and to priority feed-in into the grids. The spread between the market price and the feed-in tariff is levied to electricity consumers by a renewable energy surcharge (“EEG Surcharge”) whereby energy-intensive industries benefit from a reduction.
Under the EEG support scheme, renewable energy sources have experienced a boom in Germany, now serving as a source for about 25 % of the country’s electricity consumption – four times as much as a decade ago. In turn, the system has increasingly been put under political pressure as energy costs (especially for households) continue to increase. In addition, the support scheme is held to produce a paradox effect: whereas consumer prices increase due to the EEG Surcharge that levies the feed-in tariffs, wholesale electricity prices plunge because the rapidly growing renewables are flooding the market. The effect of this price development is tangible: Germany’s second largest utility, RWE AG from Essen, whose core business is electricity delivery, has announced a net loss for the year 2013 of 2.8 billion Euros. It was RWE’s first loss-making year since the end of the Second World War. Read More
The Senate Finance Committee approved its long-awaited tax extenders package on April 3, 2014. The Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, which the Committee approved by voice vote, would extend dozens of temporary tax incentives that expired at the end of last year or are set to expire at the end of this year. Moreover, the package includes numerous energy tax incentives that lapsed at the end of last year.
The EXPIRE Act would extend the following energy tax provisions:
- * Production tax credit and investment tax credit with respect to facilities producing electricity from certain renewable sources (e.g., wind) (Sections 45 and 48)
- * Deduction for energy efficient commercial building property (Section 179D)
- * Credit for residential energy efficient property (Section 25C)
- Alternative fuel refueling property credit (Section 30C)
- Credit for electric motorcycles and three-wheeled vehicles (Section 30D)
- Second generation biofuel producer credit (Section 40)
- Special depreciation allowance for second generation biofuel plant property (Section 168(l))
- Tax credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel (Section 40A)
- Credit for the production of Indian coal (Section 45(e)(10))
- Credit for energy efficient new homes (Section 45L)
- Alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixture credit (Sections 6426 and 6427(e))
- Credit for new qualified fuel cell motor vehicles (Section 30B) (expires in 2014)
* Provision was not included in Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) “Chairman’s mark” but was added to the package before the Committee’s mark-up.
That said, the EXPIRE Act is, for the most part, a “clean” extenders package, meaning that the proposal mostly changes termination dates and includes few changes to underlying policy. As a result, certain modifications sought by the renewable energy industry were not included. For example, the proposal would not expand Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) along the lines of Senator Chris Coons’ Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (S. 795). Additionally, the EXPIRE Act would not impose a “commence construction” requirement (as opposed to a “placed in service” requirement) with respect to solar projects under the investment tax credit under Section 48. Finally, it would not extend the credit for energy efficient appliances under Section 45M.
K&L Gates hosted Chairman Wyden for a breakfast meeting on April 8. Wyden stated that he is working with Senate leadership on a strategy that would bring the EXPIRE Act to the Senate floor. Some staff indicate that floor action could occur as early as the next congressional work period, during the weeks of April 28 or May 5. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee may also consider energy tax incentives soon as part of its planned series of hearings on tax extenders.
We will provide more updates as this debate unfolds over the coming months.
On March 4, President Obama released his annual budget request to Congress. The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 request includes many proposals from previous years, but it also includes some new ideas—including on energy taxes. Below is a summary of the Administration’s energy tax proposals.
- Modify and Permanently Extend the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC). As in its budget request last year, the Administration would make the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45 PTC permanent, refundable, and available to solar facilities. However, there are two significant changes from last year: (1) the Administration would make the credit available for electricity consumed directly by the taxpayer; and (2) solar facilities could choose to use either the PTC or the investment tax credit (ITC) under IRC Section 48 through the end of 2016. After 2016, the proposal would repeal the permanent 10 percent ITC for solar and geothermal property.
- Modify and Permanently Extend the Deduction for Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Property. The Administration would raise the current maximum deduction for energy-efficient commercial building property to $3.00 per square foot, increase the maximum partial deduction for each separate building system to $1.00 per square foot, and provide a new deduction to reward energy savings achieved by retrofits to existing buildings, among other changes.
- Provide a Tax Credit for the Production of Advanced Technology Vehicles. The Administration would replace the existing tax credit for plug-in electric drive motor vehicles with a credit for “advanced technology vehicles” that: (1) operate primarily on an alternative to petroleum fuels; (2) use technology employed by few other vehicles in the U.S.; and (3) exceed the “target” miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) by at least 25 percent.
- Provide a Tax Credit for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Alternative Fuel Commercial Vehicles. The Administration would create a new tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds. The credit would equal $25,000 for vehicles weighing up to 26,000 pounds and $40,000 for vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds.
- Extend the Tax Credit for Cellulosic Biofuels. The tax credit for the production of cellulosic biofuels under IRC Section 40 (recently re-titled the “second generation biofuel producer credit”) expired at the end of 2013. The Administration would retroactively extend the credit through 2020 at its current level of $1.01 per gallon.
- Modify and Extend the Tax Credit for the Construction of Energy-Efficient New Homes. The Administration would extend the tax credit for new energy-efficient homes acquired before 2015. For homes acquired between 2015 and 2025, the proposal would provide a $1,000 credit for the construction of a qualified ENERGY STAR certified new home. The Administration would also provide a $4,000 tax credit for construction of DOE Challenge Homes.
- Reduce Excise Taxes on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Bring Into Parity with Excise Taxes on Diesel. The Administration would lower the 24.3 cents per gallon excise tax on LNG to 14.1 cents per gallon after 2014.
The Administration has also proposed to repeal numerous tax preferences for conventional energy companies. In particular, the President proposed to repeal the following provisions:
- Credit for Enhanced Oil Recovery (“EOR”) Projects
- Credit for Oil and Natural Gas Produced from Marginal Wells
- Expensing of Intangible Drilling Costs
- Deduction for Tertiary Injectants
- Exemption to Passive Loss Limitation for Working Interests in Oil and Gas Properties
- Percentage Depletion for Oil and Natural Gas Wells
- Domestic Manufacturing Deduction for Oil and Natural Gas Production
- Expensing of Exploration and Development Costs
- Percentage Depletion for Hard Mineral Fossil Fuels
- Capital Gains Treatment for Royalties
- Domestic Manufacturing Deduction for the Production of Coal and Other Hard Mineral Fossil Fuels
In addition to repealing these provisions, the Administration would increase the geological and geophysical amortization period for independent oil producers from two years to seven years.
Although it’s unclear whether Congress will enact any of these proposals into law, the Administration’s budget request is significant in that it establishes the President’s position on energy tax issues moving forward. This positioning is especially important as Congress debates tax extenders legislation and energy tax reform. It’s also important when considered in comparison to recent proposals from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), whose tax reform discussion draft would repeal incentives for alternative energy, and former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), whose tax reform staff discussion draft would establish a regime of technology-neutral tax incentives to reward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while eliminating other energy tax provisions.
Stay tuned for more information as this debate unfolds.
After years of negotiations, the United States House and Senate have passed a comprehensive Farm Bill which will be signed into law by President Obama on February 7 at Michigan State University, the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). On February 4, the Senate voted 68-32 to approve the five-year authorization bill, formally titled the Agriculture Act of 2014. The House passed the legislation last week.
While the bill predictably includes provisions which impact farm programs and also authorizes nutrition programs, in addition, it includes an Energy Title which provides support to many feedstock growers as well as traditional farmers who improve the energy efficiency of their operations.