The National 25x'25 Alliance Steering Committee has offered Congress and the incoming Obama administration a broad package of new recommendations that will bolster the U.S. economy, create new jobs and insure a clean energy future, the group contends.
The recommendations take aim at all objectives: research, innovation funding for start-up businesses, financial assistance to established firms, infrastructure development and job growth, all in a wide variety of renewable energy sectors that also address the ongoing economic downturn.
The 12 recommendations boost federal renewable energy programs by calling for additional investments totaling some $4.14 billion, an outlay that could ultimately help generate hundreds of billions in new annual revenues and millions of new jobs. The proposals target programs that accelerate markets the wind energy, solar power, biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower and biofuels industries. The package also calls for a renewed look at government support for advanced biofuel production, including increased funding in the form of grants specifically aimed at the construction of commercial-scale, cellulosic production facilities. The proposals underscore the critical role USDA and its programs can and will play in the promotion of a clean energy future and a robust economy.
"The National 25x'25 Alliance Steering Committee believes these recommendations can best address our troubled economic times," says Bart Ruth, committee chairman. "As congressional leaders and the new, incoming administration look for ways to bolster a sagging economy, the 25x'25 Steering Committee believes that now is the best time to implement renewable-energy and energy-efficiency initiatives that can drive and maintain economic recovery."
The 25x'25 Steering Committee provides leadership for a coalition of nearly 800 agricultural, forestry, energy, environmental, business, labor, civic and community groups that call for 25 percent of our national energy needs to be met with renewable resources by 2025. The Steering Committee offers the recommendations as the backbone of a strategy that will address the nation's economic downturn. "These recommendations underscore the longstanding 25x'25 position that a renewable-energy and energy-efficient future will not only boost our economy, putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work, but also enhance our national security and improve our environment," says Ruth.
He points out the recommendations for economic recovery are underscored by a national study undertaken by the University of Tennessee Department of Agricultural Economics that shows that if America's farms, ranches and forestlands are empowered with the policies and incentives needed to meet 25 percent of the nation's energy needs with renewable resources — biofuels, biomass, wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy and hydropower — an estimated $700 billion in new, annual economic activity would be generated, and 4 million to 5 million new jobs would be created.
"The 25x'25 economic recovery recommendations will lead to a long-term, comprehensive energy development that will accelerate the production of all forms of renewable energy and create new renewable energy markets," says Ruth.
Key recommendations submitted to Congress and the incoming administration for a nationwide, clean energy economic recovery initiative include:
- Increase funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides grants or loan guarantees for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements for agricultural producers and rural small businesses, to $250 million annually, and $500 million over two years.
- Increase fu nding for the Repowering Assistance Program, which provides loans and loan guarantees to help biofuel plants convert their heating and power fuel supply to biomass and reduce their dependence on fossil fuel-powered boilers, to $150 million annually, and $300 million over two years.
- Broaden the authority and increase funding for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, which provides loans and loan guarantees to construct commercial-scale advanced biofuel facilities. The recommendations call for increasing and fully funding mandatory and discretionary spending levels of $500 million in year one and $1 billion in year two; and considering modifications to provide grants that facilitate the construction of first-generation cellulosic biofuel plants.
- Implement the Bioenergy Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which supports the establishment and production of eligible crops for conversion to bioenergy, in 2009 and fund it at $250 million annually for two years.
- Fund the Community Wood Energy Program, which provides grants to state and local governments and communities to develop wood energy plans, at $20 million annually for two years.
- Extend Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, which are incentive instruments for not-for-profit utilities (comparable to the Production Tax Credit that is available to investor-owned utilities) to support wind, biomass, geothermal, solar, municipal solid waste, small irrigation power and hydropower projects, through 2010 and provide additional bonding authority of $2.5 billion.
- Restructure the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for all sources of renewable electricity to allow for accelerated depreciation, refundable credits and transfers between persons/entities, and enable projects to utilize other financial incentives without a reduction in the amount of ITC and PTC that an entity can claim.
- Extend the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for renewable electricity sources for five years.
- Create a level playing field for producers of renewable electricity by increasing the Production Tax Credit for biomass, marine, hydro, marine, green gas, waste and other renewable energy sources of electricity to a level equivalent to that received by wind and geothermal energy producers.
- Improve tax incentives for Community Wind projects — development that focuses on investment from local communities, rather from an outside investor — by allowing community wind developers to count the tax incentives against active income.
- Fund the Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program at $1.3 billion and improve electricity transmission by reimbursing 20 percent of investments made in qualifying Smart Grid Investments.