Here’s How Congress Can Help Make Clean Energy More Efficient

This is a guest post from Phyllis Cuttino, director of clean energy at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

This coming year, Congress should seek to replicate the bipartisan collaboration that resulted in the recent budget agreement by passing extensions of tax incentives that enhance U.S. economic, energy and environmental security. These extensions should include important provisions for the renewable energy sector, such as the production tax credit and the investment tax credit.

Passage of these “extenders” would ensure continued progress in clean energy manufacturing, deployment and jobs while maintaining momentum and cooperation among Democrats and Republicans on issues vital to the well-being of the American people.

The sustained growth of the clean energy sector serves a variety of American interests. As wind and solar power deployment increases, greenhouse gas emissions fall significantly. Energy sector carbon emissions were lower in 2012 than they have been in two decades, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. On the economic front, tax incentives help create jobs and encourage American innovators. And expanded use of renewable power contributes to U.S. energy security.

In short, our country is cleaner, more prosperous and more secure as a result of increased use of clean energy resources.

But the recent progress is clouded by uncertainty surrounding long-term policy. Episodic renewal of clean energy tax incentives inhibits investment and job creation in the sector. Congress should extend these incentives and then work on comprehensive tax reform that results in greater fairness, certainty and simplicity in the tax code. Pew’s research finds that clean energy industry leaders support the need for multiyear but time-limited extensions of both the production and investment tax credits.

Any tax extenders package passed by Congress should include two important renewable energy provisions.

First, Congress should extend the production tax credit, or PTC, which is critical to the long-term health of the U.S. wind industry. In 2012, 42 percent of new electric generating capacity in the United States was powered by wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The industry encompasses more than 550 facilities in 44 states that manufacture equipment for wind power stations. Whenever extension of the PTC has been in doubt, investment and jobs in the sector have retreated. With a fragile economic recovery underway, our country cannot afford to let investment or jobs evaporate.

Second, Congress should modify the investment tax credit, or ITC, so that it more fully embraces industrial energy efficiency technologies.† Currently, the ITC provides only a 10 percent credit for these technologies, but it provides 30 percent for solar and other qualifying technologies. The limitations of the current provision impede industry’s use of the incentive and slow what otherwise could be significant investment in U.S. energy efficiency. If modified, the ITC would allow projects access to the capital necessary to cover their often-substantial upfront costs.

Show Your Support: Urge Congress to Extend Clean Energy Tax Incentives

Note: Industrial efficiency technologies are commonly known as combined heat and power and can be deployed by manufacturers, power plants, and institutional campuses to capture this excess heat from industrial processes and use it to heat buildings or generate more electricity cheaply and reliably.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven6 months ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

David The only thing republicans care about is the money their corporate masters pay them in the dirty fossil fuel industry. The billionaire Koch brothers own your venal republican party. Republicans hate solar, and wind power because they know that they will replace dirty coal, oil, and natural gas. You, of course don't care about our environment, or what the cost is of using dirty fossil fuels. The Production Tax Credit has been opposed by republicans who want wind to stand on it's own, even though dirty coal, oil, and natural gas are automatically subsidized every year. We've subsidized dirty fossil fuels for the last 100 years, and look at the horrible price we have paid for that mistake. Solar and wind power are the future, and it's long past time to subsidize clean renewable energy.

Borg Drone
Past Member 2 years ago


Janis K.
Janis K.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

David F "Republicans have never blocked the private use or development of wind, solar, or bio fuels, they even support tax credits to assist in the development." Republicans never supported the Production Tax Credit for wind power. Republicans want to destroy clean wind and solar power, because it will take the place of dirty oil, coal, and natural gas. Republicans are bought and paid for by the dirty fossil fuel industry, and could never allow wind and solar to grow, because they would loose the millions that they will get paid, from the dirty fossil fuel industry. Republicans, only care about money. If we legalized hemp, we could grow it on any fallow, or non agricultural farmland. It would save our tree's because hemp paper can be recycled 8 times vs 3 times for wood based paper. Hemp bio plastics decompose, and could replace petroleum based plastics, which do not decompose, and are bad for the environment. Hemp can make, rope, paper, plastics, milk, clothing, electricity, and hemp diesel which is more environmentally friendly than petroleum based diesel. Legalizing hemp could create major industries, and employ people. Also, the electric car can replace the gas car, and end our imports of dirty oil from overseas.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams2 years ago

Our too big to fail fossil fuel firms DETEST renewable energy as their RIVALS. If fossil fuel firms are willing to use their subsidies to invest in renewable energy to have something to fall back on when fossil fuel runs out, OK. If some firms do NOT invest in renewable energy, then our farms will be toast, and we will not be able to remain civilized.

Margaret Skeel
Margaret Skeel2 years ago

Good luck America... go solar!

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

(continued) 100% by 2020. Portugal gets 50% from renewables, and will also get 100% of their electricity from clean renewable energy by 2020. Solar, wind, and geothermal power are the future, and we must move away from dirty fossil fuels.

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

David F If as you say, you and most republicans believe in extending the Production Tax Credit for wind power, why have republicans continued to block solar, and wind power? Natural gas is not acceptable, because fracking allows poisonous chemicals that poison our water. We can get bio methane from our farms, food waste, and land fills, and convert it into biogas, which is cleaner than natural gas, and doesn't involve drilling or fracking. Biogas can power our big trucks. Electric cars can replace gas cars, and are much cheaper to operate. In addition Hemp must be legalized to provide us hemp diesel, which is much better than corn ethanol, and does not compete for food. Hemp diesel can power are big trucks also, and compete with algae bio diesel, to replace all our needed oil, and clean up our environment. Hemp can revive America, creating industries that make rope, paper, milk, concrete, paint, bio plastics, electricity and provide farmers income. hemp requires no pesticides, and improves the soil quality of farms. Wind power provides jobs, clean energy, and revenue for our farmers. Natural gas fracking must be stopped. It is a fossil fuel, creates air pollution, and poisons our water. Solar and wind are getting cheaper every day, and will replace dirty fossil fuels. The paradigm must change. Clean renewable energy is the future. Many countries already get high percentages of clean renewable energy. Scotland gets 40% of their electricity from renewable energy, and will get 1