Renewable energy—it’s the apparent holdup as the U.S. Senate, under Republican leadership attempts to approve a stimulus package meant to overcome the economic bashing caused by the spread of the coronavirus.
At least 18 Democratic Senators sent a letter to Senate leadership asking them to include renewable energy in the package. One of the Senators was Sen. Martin Henrich of New Mexico. Fellow Sen. Tom Udall, another Democrat did not sign the letter but in a tweet on Monday wrote, “Senate Republican leaders have moved forward with a partisan coronavirus response bill that puts big corporations first— shortchanging hospitals, front line health care workers, states, working people and Tribes.
This is no time for a partisan process that leaves workers behind.”
Democrats want the financial recovery to include renewables getting tax credit extensions or an eliminate of the tax credit phase-out. “To ensure that we do not lose years of progress on clean energy and the source of employment for tens of thousands of renewable energy workers, Congress should look to previous relief packages as an example for how to support this sector and the broader American economy,” the letter reads.
But Monday morning, Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to blast Democrats for the holdup in the bill.
“Tax credits for solar energy and wind energy. Provisions to force employers to give special new treatment to Big Labor. And listen to this — new emissions standards for the airlines. Are you kidding me?” McConnell said in a heated speech on the Senate floor.
He accused them of continuing to “dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”
Senate Democrats on Sunday evening blocked a motion to advance the GOP’s framework for the coronavirus aid bill that senators had been negotiating throughout the weekend.
The delay in approval prompted Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford to tweet his disapproval of the action by the Democrats.
“It is unbelievable that Democrats would stall the relief bill. Senate Democrats have written many sections of the economic relief bill already – Now they are holding hostage critical support to combat the COVID19 pandemic for more demands. We need to get aid moving quickly.”
The budding renewables industry is one of many sectors taking big hits — the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates the novel coronavirus could threaten $35 billion in investments, $8 billion in rural community tax benefits, and over 35,000 jobs. And 30% of projects across the solar industry are seeing delays, according to Friday’s letter.
Supply chain disruption is one of the biggest delays, with renewables projects facing months of equipment setbacks.
“A major collapse in financing is all but certain as investment firms’ profits turn to losses and capital is suddenly unavailable for large labor intensive investments,” the senators wrote.
There is precedent for this kind of action to support major U.S. infrastructure. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included “over $90 billion in funding for clean energy and grid modernization,” according to the letter.
Friday’s recommendation by Senate Democrats followed a Thursday letter sent by major renewable energy groups spanning from wind, solar and hydropower that also called for tax relief and safe harbor extensions.
“These strategies to provide assistance to the clean energy industry must be included in any financial recovery discussions, particularly if the Trump Administration continues its push to aid the oil industry,” Senators wrote.
Source: Utility Dive