Vermont projects could benefit from tax credits in Senate energy bill

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(Host) An energy bill passed by the U.S. Senate could help projects in Vermont by extending tax credits and requiring utilities to buy renewable power.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The Congress has tried to pass new energy legislation for years, and the bill passed by the Senate must still be reconciled with a House version. The Senate bill extends tax credits for wind projects for three years. The House bill does not.

Dan Reicher is president of New Energy Capital, a company that finances clean energy projects around the county. He’s also a Vermonter and former assistant energy secretary in the Clinton Administration. According to Reicher, some Vermont projects could be at risk if the credits are no longer available.

(Reicher) “There’s an existing tax credit today, but it runs out soon. And there’s a number of projects in Vermont that are not far enough along to take advantage of the current tax credit. So it’s important that this tax credit be reauthorized in the current House and Senate bills.”

(Dillon) Wind energy developers plan at least five major projects in Vermont, three in the Northeast Kingdom and two in the southern part of the state.

Opponents have criticized the credits as an unfair subsidy. Reicher says all energy development gets help from the government.

(Reicher) “Oil, coal nuclear – all have their own sets of subsidies, and they are substantial subsidies. So the decision by the Congress to provide tax credit for renewable energy I think simply levels the playing field.”

(Dillon) John Zimmerman is a wind energy consultant working with a French company on two projects in Vermont. He says the tax credits are helpful, but that developers have grown used to delays from Congress.

(Zimmerman) “I don’t feel that there is really too much of an impact on any of the projects I’m working on. These projects take a long time to develop and have had to endure several other cycles of extensions of production tax credits. So I think they’ll be able to endure another one.”

(Dillon) The Senate bill also requires utilities to buy 10 percent of their energy supply from renewable sources by 2020. But the bill did not include limits on greenhouse gases. Nor does it raise automobile vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Reicher, the former assistant energy secretary, says these are missed opportunities.

(Reicher) “We’re going to get a bill that at best helps spur the use of renewable energy and fuel but that does not significantly put us on a course to deal with climate change.”

(Dillon) A House-Senate conference committee now has to work out a compromise.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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