Just about everybody asks Congress to extend renewable energy credits

Washington A coalition of more than 100 business, trade, and advocacy groups called on the U.S. Senate in March to pass bipartisan legislation as soon as possible that extends renewable energy and efficiency tax credits that have already expired or will expire at the end of this year. The tax incentives would strengthen the renewable energy industry and expand the market for energy-efficient products,

Washington — A coalition of more than 100 business, trade, and advocacy groups called on the U.S. Senate in March to pass bipartisan legislation as soon as possible that extends renewable energy and efficiency tax credits that have already expired or will expire at the end of this year. The tax incentives would strengthen the renewable energy industry and expand the market for energy-efficient products, which ultimately would reduce residential and commercial energy costs, generate new domestic jobs, and boost a flagging economy, according to the coalition.

The coalition includes companies and constituencies not normally on the same page, from Wal-Mart to Friends of the Earth, the National Association of Home Builders to Greenpeace.

“Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are a proven economic engine for our country. They've created tens of thousands of green collar jobs and billions of dollars in investment,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Congress and the administration should seize this opportunity to support this high-growth sector.”

The business-consumer coalition includes 47 manufacturers, including Dow Chemical, DuPont, Owens Corning, and Whirlpool; eight retailers, including Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Wal-Mart; 23 trade associations, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the National Association of Homebuilders, and the National Small Business Association; 25 advocacy groups, including Environment America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists; and 10 utilities, including Constellation Energy, Exelon, and Florida Power & Light.

Historically, Congress has extended clean energy tax incentives in only two-year increments, creating a boom-bust cycle that impedes industry development. The ideal Senate tax incentive package, the coalition said, would extend incentives for wind, solar, and biomass for a number of years to provide the stability financial investors need to back new projects.

In addition to extending tax credits for renewable energy sources, the coalition urges the Senate to extend tax incentives for constructing energy-efficient buildings, investing in solar electric systems, installing efficient home heating and cooling equipment, manufacturing efficient home appliances, and retrofitting existing homes to save energy.

“Our nation's buildings account for 70% of our nation's electricity use, and that's why these incentives are vitally important to deploy energy-efficient designs, technologies, and equipment,” said R.K. Stewart, former president of the American Institute of Architects. “The end result is that we would get the most energy-conserving buildings possible, which means reduced utility bills for businesses and homeowners, and lower overall energy demand across the nation.”

Jeffrey D. DeBoer, president and CEO of the Real Estate Roundtable, a policy organization that represents the commercial real estate industry, agreed. “By extending energy tax incentives, Congress will be encouraging the rapid rollout of a new generation of high performance, energy-efficient green buildings,” he said. “With energy prices soaring, passing these incentives is just common sense and key for any credible energy policy.”

Joseph M. McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers explained how the incentives for manufacturers would make it easier for them to market super-efficient clothes washers, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

“The incentives will accelerate design, production, and market acceptance of highly efficient appliances, potentially saving consumers $33 million per year in electricity, gas, and water costs and $360 million over the life of those appliances,” he said.

Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, also pointed out that an ACEEE analysis found that extending the energy efficiency provisions would add roughly 15,000 jobs to the U.S. economy, considering both added jobs in the energy efficiency and service industries and lost jobs in the traditional energy industries.

Members of the Retail Industry Leaders Association also see major benefits to extending the incentives.

“These energy tax credits encourage the construction of ‘green’ buildings and the use of solar technology, all practices engaged in by RILA member companies,” said Lori Denham, RILA executive vice president for government affairs and industry operations. “Furthermore, these credits encourage consumers to purchase energy-efficient products, such as appliances, which save on energy costs and reduce overall consumption.”

Besides the economic rationale for supporting the incentives is the pressing need to address global warming, said Marchant Wentworth, a clean energy advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We don't have to choose between the economy and the environment,” said Wentworth. “Extending these tax credits will help stimulate the economy and protect public health and the planet at the same time.”

Some of the companies, organizations, and advocacy groups that are part of the coalition are Best Buy Co., The Home Depot, Lowe's Cos., Macy's, Safeway, Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores, Applied Materials Inc., The Dow Chemical Co., DuPont, Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA Inc., Sanyo Energy (U.S.A) Corp., The Trane Co., United Technologies Corp., Whirlpool Corp., American Institute of Architects, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Building Owners and Managers Association, National Association of Realtors, the United Steelworkers, the Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.