Preliminary Evaluation of the Impact of the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program on Renewable Energy Deployment in 2009

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Federal support for renewable energy deployment in the United States has traditionally been delivered primarily through tax benefits, including the production tax credit ('PTC') in Section 45 of the U.S. tax code, investment tax credits ('ITC') in Sections 25D and 48, and accelerated tax depreciation in Section 168. Many renewable power project developers are unable to use the majority of these tax benefits directly or immediately, however, and have therefore often relied on third-party 'tax equity' investors for the necessary investment capital in order to monetize the available tax benefits. As has been well-publicized, most of these tax equity investors ... continued below

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Bolinger, Mark; Wiser, Ryan & Darghouth, Naim March 31, 2010.

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Federal support for renewable energy deployment in the United States has traditionally been delivered primarily through tax benefits, including the production tax credit ('PTC') in Section 45 of the U.S. tax code, investment tax credits ('ITC') in Sections 25D and 48, and accelerated tax depreciation in Section 168. Many renewable power project developers are unable to use the majority of these tax benefits directly or immediately, however, and have therefore often relied on third-party 'tax equity' investors for the necessary investment capital in order to monetize the available tax benefits. As has been well-publicized, most of these tax equity investors were hit hard by the global financial crisis that unfolded in the last months of 2008 and, as a result, most either withdrew from the renewable power market at that time or reduced their available investment capital. This left a significant financing gap beginning in late 2008, and placed at some risk the continued near-term growth of renewable energy supply in the U.S. In recognition of these developments, the U.S. Congress passed two stimulus bills - The Energy Improvement and Extension Act ('the Extension Act') in October 2008 and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ('the Recovery Act') in February 2009 - parts of which were intended to address the growing shortage of finance for renewable power projects. Most notably, Section 1603 of the Recovery Act enables qualifying commercial renewable energy projects to choose between the Section 45 PTC, the Section 48 ITC, or a cash grant of equal value to the Section 48 ITC (i.e., 30% of the project's eligible basis in most cases). By giving developers the option to receive a 30% cash grant (administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury) in lieu of either the ITC or the PTC, Congress hoped to 'temporarily fill the gap created by the diminished investor demand for tax credits,' and thereby achieve 'the near term goal of creating and retaining jobs - as well as the long-term benefit of expanding the use of clean and renewable energy and decreasing our dependency on non-renewable energy sources' (U.S. Department of the Treasury 2009). More than a year has now passed since the Recovery Act became law. Although the Section 1603 program has been operational for only part of that time - roughly eight months - the program faces a looming milestone in just another nine months. Specifically, in order to qualify for the Section 1603 grant, eligible projects must have commenced construction by the end of 2010. With this deadline approaching, the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives requested that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory evaluate the effectiveness of the Section 1603 grant program to date (see Attachment 1), focusing on specific elements of the program that were subsequently agreed upon by Committee staff, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Berkeley Lab. This report responds to the Committee's request. The evaluation focuses primarily on the commercial wind power sector, for two reasons: (1) commercial wind power projects had received nearly 86% of all grant money awarded as of March 1, 2010; and (2) there is substantially more market-related information available for the commercial wind power sector than there is for other renewable power sectors, thereby facilitating analysis. Despite the focus on wind power, this initial analysis does endeavor to provide relevant information on other technologies, and in particular geothermal (the second-largest recipient of grant money), where possible.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3188E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/983046 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 983046
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1012388

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  • March 31, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 17, 2017, 6:57 p.m.

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Bolinger, Mark; Wiser, Ryan & Darghouth, Naim. Preliminary Evaluation of the Impact of the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program on Renewable Energy Deployment in 2009, report, March 31, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1012388/: accessed October 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.