Please join us on Thursday, June 7, 2018 as we host the Northwest Environmental Business Council’s (NEBC) Energy Workshop “Powering Our Future: Insight into the Growth of Renewables.”
As host of the event in our Seattle office, our partners Ankur Tohan and Alyssa Moir and associate Endre Szalay will speak on a panel titled “Solar & Wind Project Development: Navigating Risk and Seizing Opportunity.”
Join us for an engaging afternoon of discussions on policy, technology, and legal hot topics in the renewable energy industry. Panelists representing perspectives from power producers, power purchasers, energy investors, utility, and the legal industry will discuss the role of competitive markets in the renewable energy sector, the impact and increasing presence of renewables and storage on the grid, and renewable project development issues and opportunities with a focus on the Northwest.
The workshop is presented free of charge to NEBC members and all interested parties.
Thursday, June 7
1:45 – 2:00 p.m.: Registration & Opening Remarks
2:00 – 5:00 p.m.: Technical Workshop
5:00 – 6:00 p.m.: Happy Hour
Location: K&L Gates LLP, 925 Fourth Avenue, Suite 2900, Seattle, WA
For more details and to register, click here.
On Friday, March 2, the Internal Revenue Service released Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”) 201809003. The PLR is not binding precedent, but it indicates that the IRS will permit a taxpayer to claim a Code Section 25D credit in respect of a residential battery installed after the solar panels to which it will be attached was installed. In the PLR, the IRS expressly states that it will treat the battery as property that “uses solar energy to generate electricity,” provided only solar energy is used to charge it.
The PLR concerns individuals claiming a credit for a residential system, but don’t stop reading. This outcome matters for C&I and utility scale projects also.
Earlier this evening, the conference committee considering the tax reform bills previously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate released legislative text for the much rumored conference bill. Although neither the Production Tax Credit (“PTC”) nor the Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) are directly impacted, the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (often referred to as the “BEAT” or “International AMT”) provides only partial relief for U.S. corporations subject to that tax that have PTCs or ITCs available to offset their U.S. federal income tax.
Under the conference bill, a U.S. corporation that is subject to the International AMT may use up to the lesser of 80% of the PTCs and ITCs available to them or the “base erosion minimum tax amount” only through 2025. The PTC and ITC cannot be used to eliminate any International AMT otherwise due.
As in previous iterations of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the conference bill does not distinguish between PTCs and ITCs earned in respect of qualifying projects that have already been placed in service or begun construction. In addition, although the International AMT rate has been adjusted (5% for tax years beginning in 2018, 10% for tax years beginning between 2019 and 2025, and 12.5% thereafter), the rate applicable to U.S. corporations that are in an affiliated group with any bank or registered securities dealer will always be 1% higher than the generally applicable rate. In addition, the PTC and ITC cannot be used to reduce the International AMT due in any tax year beginning in 2026 or thereafter.
Thus, although the impact of the International AMT is somewhat reduced in the conference bill, the International AMT could still prompt some multinational investors in renewable energy projects to divest certain operating projects and projects under development as well as discourage investment in new projects.
Early in the morning of Saturday, December 2, the U.S. Senate voted along party lines to approve its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”). The U.S. House of Representatives approved its rather different version of the bill on Thursday, November 16, 2017. Although the two bills now must proceed through the conference process to reconcile their differences, many predict that any bill ultimately sent to the President will largely resemble the Senate version. It is not clear how long the conference process may take, but Congressional Republicans have indicated that they intend to send a final bill to the President before Christmas, perhaps as early as December 15. Ultimately, while it appears that the investment tax credit (“ITC”) and production tax credit (“PTC”) provisions likely will not be changed in the reconciliation bill, the net effect of other provisions, particularly a new “International AMT,” may significantly chill the tax equity market that supports much of the renewable energy industry.
The PTC and ITC Provisions Are Not Expected to Change
The tax reform measure approved by the full Senate includes several changes compared to the version approved by the Senate Finance Committee and also differs in some significant ways compared to the House bill. It is important to note that while the House bill includes dramatic cuts to the PTC and more limited revisions to the ITC, the Senate bill would not change either credit program. During the Senate Finance Committee mark-up, Republicans indicated their intent to address the availability of the ITC and PTC for certain “orphan” technologies before the end of the year. Addressing energy provisions in a different tax package would relieve some of the pressure on revenues in the tax reform bill as lawmakers must stay within the budget reconciliation instruction constraints, including that the deficit may not be increased by more than $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period.
Provisions That May Suppress Tax Equity Investment
However, both bills include radical changes to corporate and international taxation that may suppress investment in renewable energy projects that qualify for the ITC and PTC.
- First, the change in the corporate income tax rate to a flat 20% rate (or perhaps a 22% rate, based on recent statements from the President), temporary renewal of 100% bonus depreciation and increased expensing of capital investments are expected to reduce appetite for tax credits because of generally reduced corporate exposure to U.S. federal income taxes. In addition, the Senate bill would not repeal the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. (Under current law, a corporation that is subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax may be required to pay tax on income that would otherwise be sheltered by the PTC or ITC under certain circumstances. However, there is a significant effort to at least reduce the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax in the reconciliation bill.).
- Second, in the course of changing the United States from a “worldwide” to a “territorial” tax system, the bills would add “base erosion” provisions that may inhibit investment by multinational corporations in the United States generally and specifically in PTC and ITC projects. In other words, under the bills, a person would be required to pay U.S. federal income tax on the income it earns in the United States, but not outside of the United States. The base erosion provisions are intended to limit the ability of a taxpayer to reduce its U.S. income through certain transactions and arrangements with non-U.S. affiliates. One of these rules would discourage a U.S. company from financing its operations with debt from a non-U.S. affiliate beyond a certain point.
Another base erosion provision would require a U.S. corporation to pay tax on 10% (11% if it is a bank) of (x) its “modified” taxable income, less (y) the tax it would otherwise pay without taking into consideration its U.S. federal income tax credits other than the research and development credit. A U.S. corporation is subject to this rule if it pays non-U.S. affiliates for a threshold amount of goods and services, e.g., component parts or administration, and the multinational group has gross receipts of more than $500 million on average over the prior three years (the “International AMT”). Although generally applicable, this rule would require a calculation of adjusted income that would not account for the PTC or ITC, regardless of when the PTCs or ITCs were earned. Thus, a company that is subject to the International AMT will likely be required to pay tax on income that would otherwise be sheltered by the PTC or ITC, including income that may be sheltered under the existing Alternative Minimum Tax rules. There are reports that a coalition of Republican Senators are attempting to exclude the PTC and ITC from the adjusted income calculation for the International AMT, but it is not clear that will be accomplished during the reconciliation process.
What does this mean for the renewable energy industry?
If the bill that ultimately crosses the President’s desk largely mirrors the Senate bill, it is likely that many of the very large tax equity investors will become subject to the International AMT (since many of those investors are banks, they are also likely to become subject to the higher International AMT rate). Some of those investors have indicated that they will attempt to sell their PTC and ITC holdings and will pull back from further investment. While it seems unlikely that the largest investors will completely exit the PTC and ITC market, even a partial withdrawal seems likely to cause significant turbulence in the market. While the provisions applicable to the tax equity investors that are not subject to the International AMT are more of a mixed bag, the reduction in the corporate income tax rate and increase in bonus depreciation may curb their PTC and ITC appetite.
There is a reasonable possibility that the reconciliation bill will diverge from the bills in material ways, particularly if the President’s recent statements considering a 22% corporate income tax rate are taken seriously. In any event, it seems likely that negotiations over the tax bills may convert the Suniva Section 201 proceeding into just one among several concerns for those riding the “solarcoaster” in the months ahead; at the same time, the uncertainty that the Senate and House bills create with respect to the PTC will occupy the attention of the wind industry.
Teresa Hill, Partner in K&L Gates’ Portland office, will be speaking at the AWEA WINDPOWER 2017 post-conference seminar The Evolving World of Corporate Wind Investment in Anaheim, California, on Thursday, May 25th at 1:30 p.m. PST at the Anaheim Convention Center. Teresa will speak on the panel Sealing the C&I Deal: Innovations, Challenges, and Opportunities in conjunction with Ted Romaine, Director of Origination, Invenergy LLC and Vanessa Miler-Fels, Energy Strategy & Research – Renewable Energy Strategist, Microsoft. Teresa will focus on how to structure renewable agreements that satisfy both the non-utility buyer’s renewable goals and other organizational needs, and provide the developer a financeable revenue stream to support the renewable project.
How is big business putting wind to work? Why does it make financial sense? This event, presented by The Seminar Group, will explore answers to these questions and discuss the status of wind power development in the west, wind power siting, utility perspectives of renewables, Cal ISO expansion, and equity financial structures and tax considerations.
Portland partner Bill Holmes is serving as Program Chair for this progrm Thursday, May 4 at the World Trade Center in Portland, Oregon.
In addition, Seattle partner David Benson will serve as a faculty member for the program.
Bill will present on the Status of Wind Power Development in the West and David will speak on a panel covering Equity, Financial Structures and Tax Considerations.
To learn more about this event and register, click here.
On March 10, 2017, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) posted four unsolicited applications for wind project leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. PNE Wind U.S.A., Inc. has filed three lease applications, two for offshore Massachusetts and one for offshore New York. Separately, Statoil Wind US LLC filed a lease application for offshore Massachusetts.
The developers’ lease requests, particularly the overlapping requests for offshore Massachusetts, indicate continued interest and growing competition in the U.S. offshore wind sector. The quickening pace of activity in the U.S. offshore wind market, including completion of Deepwater Wind’s Block Island offshore wind farm and today’s auction process for offshore North Carolina, suggests that offshore wind projects may become a more important part of the U.S. power generation portfolio in the coming years. In addition, the unsolicited application for offshore New York and the federal government’s response may provide an early indication as to the Trump Administration’s position on offshore wind development going forward. Increased activity and a new administration in the White House present opportunities to engage on this issue and shape the policies that will govern the federal offshore leasing program for the next four or eight years, or beyond. Read More
To read the full alert, click here.