The section 1603 cash grant program is set to expire at the end of 2010, leaving developers/owners little more than 3 weeks to begin “significant” work on their projects. I recently read an article on the matter which quoted Senator Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in which he was quoted saying, “[Extending] Section 1603 is a priority, whether it gets extended in December or January and applied retroactively.” This urgency, at first, was good to read, but then I recalled a recent statement by Republican leaders which loosely translated asserted that Republicans would filibuster any bill brought before Congress that did not involve extending the Bush-era tax credits or decreasing government spending.
It’s apparent that extending the 1603 cash grant does not fall into either of these two categories, so what are developers going to do come Jan. 1, 2011? The cash grant was a strong incentive for owners and developers of wind farms. It allowed for up to a 30% cash incentive toward a project, which made investing in renewable energy quite profitable. This generous incentive was responsible for much of the increased growth rate the wind industry experienced in 2009, and led to the highest year-to-year number of installations in U.S. history. So again, how will the industry react to the expiration of Section 1603?
Of course, it’s impossible to say, but some speculate the industry will continue to decline with installations similar to the poor performance of 2010. Others are hopeful that Congress will recognize this lapse, and remedy it with either an extension or some other incentive program. And there are others still, who are confident that the industry will thrive even without the availability of government subsidies and/or kickbacks. What do you think? Can the industry survive without government assistance? Or will Congress push through an extension of the 1603 program before it’s too late?
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