On July 29, 2015, a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide credits for the production of renewable chemicals and investments in renewable chemical production facilities, and for other purposes (H.R. 3390) was introduced in the House. The bill would expand production and investment tax credits that are currently available to renewable energy producers to apply also to renewable chemical manufacturers. The program allows manufactures to choose either: (1) a 15 cents per pound production credit for eligible renewable chemicals; or (2) a 30 percent investment tax credit for the construction of renewable chemical production facilities. The credits will be in effect for five years after the bill is enacted, and will be capped at $500 million over the life of the program. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has expressed its support for H.R. 3390, restating the need to create a level playing field in the U.S. for industrial biotech companies to innovate and develop new renewable chemicals and biobased products.
On June 24, 2015, the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act (S. 1656) was reintroduced in the House and the Senate. The legislation would provide investors in renewable energy projects with tax breaks that are currently available to investors in fossil fuel-based energy projects. A master limited partnership is taxed as a partnership, but ownership interests are traded like corporate stock, thus avoiding the double taxation that can occur with traditional corporate structures when both profits and dividends are taxed. "Renewable energy technologies have made tremendous progress in the last several decades, and they deserve the same shot at success in the market as traditional energy projects," stated co-sponsor of the bill Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). This legislation would extend the benefits of a master limited partnership to biomass, municipal solid waste, solar, cellulosic fuels, biodiesel, algae-based fuels, and other renewable energy technologies.
On May 20, 2015, the House voted to pass the
COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806)
(COMPETES), a research funding bill that was originally
enacted in 2007 to further U.S. scientific and
technological advantages. The new version of COMPETES
increases funding for nuclear energy and fossil fuel
research programs, while cutting clean and renewable
energy programs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will have
funding reduced by 30 percent, or nearly $500 million,
while the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
will see funding cut by 50 percent. The
Administration has threatened to veto the bill, stating
that "the Administration believes that H.R. 1806 would be
damaging to the Administration's actions to move American
competitiveness, innovation and job growth forward through
a world-leading science, technology and innovation
On April 22, 2015, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack celebrated Earth Day by announcing that USDA "is providing more than $112 million in loans and grants to help rural communities build and upgrade their water and energy infrastructure systems." The funding for the energy infrastructure programs is provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and funds a total of 25 renewable energy projects. The grants support government bodies, utilities, and institutions of higher education that help agricultural producers and rural small businesses evaluate energy efficiency systems in order to incorporate renewable energy technology into their operations.
February 2, 2015, the
White House released the 2016 fiscal year budget request for the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE). Under this proposed plan, DOE
would receive $29.9 billion, an increase of $2.6 billion from the
2015 fiscal year. The increase in funding for DOE would focus on renewable
energy, energy efficiency, and clean power technology with some of the
additional money coming from DOE's fossil fuel programs. A total of $7.4
billion of the funding would go specifically towards clean energy technology,
including renewable and biobased developments. The budget request would also
make the renewable energy production and investment tax credits permanent. In
addition to making the existing tax credits permanent, new credits were
proposed that will focus on carbon capture, utilization, and storage
technologies. In contrast to the proposed additional tax credits for
renewables, existing tax incentives for the oil, gas, and coal industries would
be repealed. The current budget request is unlikely to pass in the House of
Representatives, but shows the focus on renewable energy that the current
On February 3, 2015, West
Virginia repealed the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act that was
originally passed and adopted in 2009. This Act (the Standard)
required utilities serving 30,000 residential customers or more to generate at
least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. To be in
compliance with the Standard, utilities could use coal (e.g., advanced
coal technologies and waste coal), natural gas, and fuel generated from burning
tires as alternative energy sources. This broad definition of what constituted
renewable and alternative energy made the Standard easy to comply with, and
utilities did not have issues reaching the benchmark percentages that were
outlined in the legislation. The Governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin
(D), stated that the Standard was repealed because it was no longer economically
beneficial for West Virginia.
On February 4, 2015, the newly formed Illinois
Clean Jobs Coalition and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for an update of the
renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that was put into place in 2007.
The Coalition proposed a plan to create as many as 32,000 jobs annually by
improving Illinois' energy economy. These improvements would be made through:
(1) changes to the RPS to increase the use of renewable sources to create 35
percent of power by 2030; (2) improved energy efficiency standards so that
overall electricity use declines by 20 percent by 2025; and (3) by encouraging
market-based strategies to increase the production of cleaner energy while
reducing carbon pollution.
On December 29, 2014, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the final rule for the Rural Energy
for America Program (REAP). REAP is intended to help mainly
businesses, as well as some state, local, and tribal governments develop solar,
wind, and biomass projects. This new rule will change the requirements for
those applying for funding from the grant and loan guarantees for renewable
energy and energy efficiency improvements in rural areas. There is now a
three-tiered application process based on the total project cost for funding
that reduces the technical reporting requirements of the previous system. The
final rule also modifies scoring criteria for renewable energy and energy
efficiency improvement projects, and creates deadline dates for grant and
guaranteed loan applications. USDA estimates that this rule will have net cost
savings of approximately ten million dollars as a result of decreased costs in
program implementation. This final rule becomes effective on February 12, 2015.
On September 15, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2996, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act. The Act "earmarks up to $300 million in federal funding -- $30 million annually for 10 years" from the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account, and would be available to regional centers to develop new products and train workforces. Fields mentioned in the bill as eligible for the money include "nanotechnology, advanced ceramics, photonics and optics, composites, biobased and advanced materials, flexible hybrid technologies and tool development for microelectronics." The RAMI Act has a companion bill in the Senate where it could be voted on as early as this fall. More information on the RAMI Act is available online. The full text of the RAMI Act can be found online.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the third annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report. The report provides forecasts for global biofuel and renewable energy growth. Within the report, the authors predict that the expansion of renewable energy will slow over the next five years unless policy certainty is diminished. For more information, see online.