Never a Dull Moment on Capitol Hill

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Never a Dull Moment on Capitol Hill

SEMI spent a lot of time this year on Capitol Hill talking with policymakers about solar energy. The following gives a brief summary of how the solar energy ITC progressed through Congress in the past few months.

After passing several energy-related bills earlier in the year, the House of Representatives passed a comprehensive energy bill in mid-September that included an eight year extension of the solar ITC. The Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899) passed along mostly party lines. The centerpiece of the bill was offshore drilling although it included a wide range of other provisions.

Despite House passage, very few expected the bill to become law. The Senate was unlikely to accept it and the White House issued a veto threat. A primary concern related to offshore drilling and the lack of provisions for states to share in the revenues that would result. There were also concerns about the repeal of a manufacturing deduction currently in place for oil and gas companies as a way to pay for the alternative energy tax credits.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) focused on more targeted measures. The Senate’s energy tax package was valued at $18 billion and it included an extension of the solar ITC. The debate in the Senate focused on whether the various tax measures would be paid for and how to do so.

After separate House and Senate action, progress on these and other tax extensions stalled given significant disagreement about whether and how they should be paid for. Many expected that Congress would not resolve these issues this year. Then came the stunning defeat in the House on the first vote on the financial rescue package. Senate negotiators worked to modify the financial measures and added the tax extensions given their stimulative effect on the economy. The House followed suit and the President signed the final bill into law.

This summer and fall SEMI was actively reaching out on Capitol Hill and participated in many in-person meetings with Senators and Representatives to make the case for solar energy. Among other things, we partnered with Applied Materials and the Solar Energy Industries Association on a series of meetings designed to send a loud message about the importance of this critical industry. These meetings focused on Democratic members of the Appropriations Committees because of their support for Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative. Meetings included members and staff from the following offices: Senators Byron Dorgan (ND), Daniel Inouye (HI), Mary Landrieu (LA), Patty Murray (WA) and Representatives Chaka Fattah (PA), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Steve Israel (NY) and Pete Visclosky (IN).

SEMI and our industry partners argued that renewal of the tax incentives for solar energy will strengthen an important high-tech industry that provides a critical alternative energy and promote its use in the United States. It will create new jobs in the U.S. and spur economic growth.

We commend Congress for passing this important measure.

Posted Oct 13, 2008