House committee finally advances renewable energy rebate bill
It looks as if the battle over the merits of a tax credit for renewable energy is nearing an end.
Members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would give the sales tax rebate to all renewable energy projects until Dec. 31, 2014, but there are additional restrictions for wind and solar projects. In order to receive the credit, wind and solar projects must have contracts finalized by Oct. 31, 2011.
That provision was put in the bill to allow wind developers with contracts currently pending before the Idaho Public Utility Commission (PUC) to be eligible for the credit. According to Roy Eiguren, lobbyist for Exergy Development Group, developers planned projects with the 6 percent sales tax rebate calculated into costs.
According to Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, the sponsor of the bill, there are about 18 wind projects pending before the PUC.
The rebate program has been the subject of at least four public committee meetings and hours of stakeholder discussion.
There may still be some opposition to the bill when it reaches the floor. Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, says the legislation mixes energy and tax policy, which could cause procedural trouble.
Roberts introduced a bill earlier this week that would have completely excluded wind and solar from eligibility for the rebate, but with the approval of Eskridge’s bill, Roberts withdrew his measure.
Roberts says the rebate is designed to give renewable industries a kick-start in the Gem State, an objective he says has been achieved for wind. He also is concerned about the intermittent nature of wind and solar, meaning that they are not constantly producing energy.
The battle has also raged in the House State Affairs Committee, which considered a two-year moratorium on wind farms. The measure called for study of the effects of wind energy during the interim. The measure was killed after two days of hearings.
Eskridge’s bill now heads to the House floor for a vote. Committee Chair Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, has signaled that this legislation is one bill that must be decided before legislators end their work next week.