I spoke to Cheddar‘s Alan Neuhauser about the simmering effort to attach renewable energy incentives to Congressional Covid response legislation.
Until this week, renewable energy and electric vehicles had not been seen as a stimulus priority among Democrats in either the House or the Senate. When senior lawmakers last week hastily appointed “task forces” to negotiate different aspects of expected stimulus measures, none of the groups focused on the issue of energy. “That told you that anything energy-targeted was not being given front-burner consideration,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist specializing in tax policy and energy at Bracewell.
However, the topic burst into public view late Monday morning, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)., vented frustration with Democratic opposition to Republican-backed stimulus proposals. McConnell took to the Senate floor to lambaste efforts to insert provisions for solar and wind energy, among other green initiatives, in exchange for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve funding.
Green energy and EVs advocates and trade groups have been taking a “two-tier” approach to the negotiations: Solar and wind developers are looking for immediate assistance for current projects, namely an extension to collect crucial tax credits that will otherwise expire as the projects are delayed due to restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus or from the financial crisis. They hope to push Democratic lawmakers to condition their support for funding of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on support for renewables.
“Even though it’s not on paper anywhere, these are being talked about in the room. And the way they came up is that there’s money in there for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so Democrats are trying to leverage something out of that,” Donovan said.
The effort, though, faces significant headwinds: A chorus of industries from restaurants to retail to airlines are seeking federal support. A roughly 1,100-page stimulus package shared Monday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), notably makes no mention of renewables or EVs — indicating that, even among Democrats, even rudimentary measures to aid green businesses are not yet a priority issue.
“When that leaked out without any clean energy provisions, that told me that that wasn’t in play,” Donovan said.
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