Apr 1, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Renewable energy industry eyes next coronavirus stimulus bill

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The renewable energy sector is pressing for the "phase 4" coronavirus response bill to provide the aid that was omitted from the recent $2 trillion rescue package — and they might have a wider opening this time around.

Why it matters: Wind and solar developers are warning of project cancelations and layoffs as activity is frozen, supply chains are disrupted, and companies risk missing deadlines to use tax credits.

Where it stands: The industry has been seeking provisions including extended deadlines to qualify for incentives, and the ability to receive them as upfront payments because the collapsing economy is freezing the tax financing market.

The odds: While the next package, like the last one, will be the stuff of intense lobbying from a range of industries, there's reason to think the sector could have a chance.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has listed the energy grid and infrastructure more broadly among the areas she'd like to address.
  • The first bills were largely emergency rescue and stabilization plans, the next phase is shaping up as a better fit with the notion of stimulus and recovery.
  • President Trump yesterday tweeted that he wants to revive focus on infrastructure (though he's not a fan of renewables).
  • The White House and Republicans didn't get their sought-after $3 billion for buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the last package, so that could be an energy-related bargaining chip.

But, but, but: All that said, it's not clear how wide the opening is. For one thing, a bipartisan infrastructure deal is almost a mythical beast — spoken of at times, but never materializing.

Plus, Republicans, like last time around, are warning Democrats against what they're framing as extraneous provisions.

  • Via NBC News, Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Tuesday that "it is not time to do the Green New Deal."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: "I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass."

What they're saying: Bill Parsons, COO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, tells me via email...

  • "Now that Congress is turning its attention to infrastructure and other sector-specific concerns, we want to make sure policymakers understand the significant supply chain disruptions and other pandemic-related project delays currently threatening the jobs of hundreds of thousands of workers in the renewable sector and the time-sensitive tax incentives on which those projects depend."
  • The industry "wants to be a key economic driver to help the nation through this downturn, as well as an effective climate solution over the long haul."

The big picture: The International Energy Agency wants to help governments weave climate-friendly provisions into economic recovery packages crafted in response to coronavirus.

  • IEA head Fatih Birol said via Twitter that they're preparing a report that will "offer actionable measures for governments to support economic recovery & job creation while achieving structural emissions reductions."
  • Birol also met remotely yesterday to discuss the topic with EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson and Frans Timmermans, who is the European Commission's executive vice president in charge of the European Green Deal.

Go deeper: Coronavirus response should promote clean energy — IEA

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