CLEAN ENERGY INCENTIVES

Investment in clean energy will help reduce the pollution impact on frontline communities that led to severe health impacts before the crisis and higher mortality rates during the pandemic. It will also help support the over 620,000 clean energy workers who have lost their jobs since March and drive growth in the renewable energy, grid modernization, and energy efficiency industries to employ even more people. Well-designed clean energy programs will also build resilience and help forge a more equitable economy.

 

Specific Policy Proposals:
  • Update and extend the clean energy tax incentives: Congress should extend the safe harbor provisions and commence construction deadlines for all clean energy technologies to account for project delays due to the COVID crisis. Lawmakers should also provide at least 2 years of direct pay, refundability, or cash grants for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) to keep clean energy projects moving in the near term and allow renewable energy workers to get back to work. Congress should extend and update the ITC, PTC, EV tax credit, and other credits as proposed in the GREEN Act. However, provisions in the GREEN Act that support energy sources that have a detrimental effect on our climate and public health, including the burning of biomass or municipal solid waste, should be removed. Additionally, lawmakers should update energy efficiency credits like those for new homes, updated appliances, and commercial spaces, which can specifically help renters and people in frontline communities who pay more for the same utility bills.

  • Provide grant funding to modernize the nation’s electricity grid: Congress should reinstate and update the Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) Program at $20 billion for technologies that improve the resilience, reliability, and flexibility of the electricity transmission and distribution system while enabling interconnection of renewable energy and accelerated electrification of transport and buildings. The program should also include additional funding for projects that primarily benefit low-income households and communities of color through decreased energy burden, improvements to resilience, and reductions in health-damaging pollution. An evaluation of the SGIG program found that $3.4 billion in public investment led to about 47,000 new jobs in the grid modernization industry and associated supply chains. 

  • Provide funding for states to support clean energy growth: Congress should fund the State Energy Program (SEP) at $3.1 billion. SEP provides funding to State Energy Offices to support energy efficiency and clean energy goals. Increased funding for SEP will get federal support to the states quickly to advance job-creating clean energy work at a time when state budgets are expected to plummet. SEP is a proven job creator. An evaluation of the program found that a public investment of $1.9 billion led to the creation of over 135,000 job-years. In providing funding for SEP, lawmakers should ensure that states use funds for projects that reduce climate-warming emissions, cut health-damaging pollution, reduce energy burden, and enable electrification of transportation and buildings, including not only energy efficiency and electrification projects but also renewable energy, grid modernization, and resilience. Congress should also require states to consider social equity in energy planning and explicitly expand authority for states to finance clean energy activities for public, private, and nonprofit entities. 

  • Create and fund a national climate bank to accelerate the growth of clean energy and infrastructure and support equitable outcomes for communities: Congress should establish an independent, nonprofit corporation tasked with providing equity, loans, risk mitigation products, technical assistance and other specialized financing solutions for financing clean energy, clean transportation, and resilient infrastructure projects. Lawmakers should provide at least $35 billion in seed capital. The bank should ensure high quality jobs through labor protections, provide a significant portion of its resources to communities of color and low-income, underserved, frontline, tribal, and/or just transition communities, and have dedicated funds to support new and existing state and local green banks. The National Climate Bank Act is an existing proposal that would accomplish these goals. Recent modeling of a $35 billion climate bank proposal found that it could, in its first five years, drive $500 billion in new public and private investment in clean technologies and create 3.4 - 8.7 million job-years (the equivalent of sustaining 680,000 - 1.7 million new jobs over the next five years). 

  • Expand funding for innovative clean energy and transportation projects: Congress should update and clarify the mission of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) at DOE, and provide additional funding to reduce barriers to entry. LPO has a track record of supporting job-creating projects that advance innovative clean technologies, but the program needs an update to be an effective recovery mechanism. Lawmakers should provide $500 million in new credit subsidy for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, provide $50 million in additional administrative funding to reduce the barriers for applicants to access funding, and update the scope of the program to make it more effective. Beyond LPO, Congress should provide $10-20 billion for large-scale demonstration projects for innovative clean technologies, such as energy storage, industrial decarbonization, domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies, and clean hydrogen systems. 

  • Increase funding for rural clean energy programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Several USDA programs provide grants and loans for renewable energy and energy efficiency in rural areas. Increased funding for these programs could promote rural economic development while saving rural customers money on their energy bills and cutting pollution. Congress should at least double funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and greatly expand funding for the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Energy Savings Program.

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