Renewable energy advocates sponsor ‘green’ tour Wednesday

September 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

A consortium of renewable energy advocates hope to claim a seat at the table when Congress reforms national tax policy.

To make their point, the group is leading a tour of green energy projects around the Missoula area starting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in downtown Missoula’s Park Place parking garage. The free bus ride will visit a methane digester that helps power the Huls Dairy in Corvallis and a Habitat for Humanity energy-efficient home in Stevensville.

Participants can also visit the Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery for a demonstration of its solar photovoltaic system, as well as a reception with the Pew Clean Energy Business Network. Winery visitors must arrange their own transportation.

On the bigger picture, Pew Environment Group clean energy program senior associate Joe Dooley said changes in tax policy could help both the United States in general and Montana in particular.

“Technology costs are dropping quickly,” Dooley said during a visit to Missoula on Tuesday. “We want U.S. businesses to help serve those markets.”

But to do that, solar and wind energy developers need access to the same kinds of investment and production tax credits that more established energy fields such as oil and coal enjoy. Current tax credit programs are set to expire at the end of the year, and have had a history of short-term, boom-and-bust impacts on the industry.

“We don’t need to finance gigantic plants, but we do need to create certainty in the markets,” Dooley said. “And we do need to invest in innovation.”

Dooley said the United States currently invests about $5 billion a year in clean energy research and development, compared to about $75 billion in military RD. He proposed bringing the renewable energy research to at least $15 billion in support of federal labs and university programs.

Moodie Wind Energy wind specialist Jon Foster said small-distribution green power generators can make sense for individual farms, businesses or communities. As those technologies improve, they become competitive with the power costs of traditional utility companies.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has announced plans to devote much of his remaining time as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to reforming the nation’s tax code. This week, he and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., have been touring the nation getting input on the effort. Baucus has said he hopes to have a proposal to bring to the Finance Committee by the end of 2013.

“Baucus is looking to make the tax system simpler and more fair,” said Renewable Northwest Project policy manager Jeff Fox. “We’re just hoping to get the same tax incentives that traditional energy gets.”

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