Yesterday, President Obama signed the Ameican Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. Of the $787 billion being doled out across the nation in some form or another, a bunch of it is going towards green-related things. But I’m sure you’re all wondering – Who? What? How much?
Since I’m guessing not that many of you want to read through all 1,000+ pages of the bill, we’re going to give you some of the highlights:
Money, Money, Free Money For Solar Power
If you start building a solar power system before December 31, 2010, you are eligible to get a grant from the Treasury worth up to 30% of what it cost you. This applies if you are a homeowner who wants to put some panels up on your roof, or if you are an entrepreneur who wants to build a vast, gigawatt-scale solar farm. But you have to start building before the deadline - which is kind of the point. Further details are still up in the air.
Can’t Get A Loan? Ask The Government!
Are you working on a geothermal plant? Maybe solar PV or solar thermal? If you are in the business of generating electricity from renewable sources, you could very well get a government loan – they have set aside $60 billion for lending to people developing renewable power sources, as well as those working on improving electricity transmission. As with the grants, there is a deadline for these loans – your project must start construction by September 30, 2011.
Production Tax Credits
PTCs – where you get tax credits based on how much clean energy you actually produce – is always a great way to, well, motivate people to produce clean energy. Yet this basic incentive has always been in a here-today-gone-tomorrow situation. Well now the 30% PTC has been extended through 2012 for wind, and through 2013 for electricity derived from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, waste-to-energy, and ocean (think tide/wave power).
Personally, I’d rather it be extended indefinitely, but I’ll take ‘em where I can get ‘em.
Investment Tax Credits
ITCs are where you get tax credit for investing in clean power. $2.3 billion have been set aside to give investors 30% tax credit for investing in renewable technologies.
[Just to recap, that’s $60 billion in loans versus $2.3 billion in ITC. I would have tipped the balance slightly more in favor of ITCs, only because I think VCs and investment banks might make smarter picks when it comes to deciding which projects are best. But Congress apparently disagrees with me.]
Get In Line For A Plug-In Hybrid
If you didn’t have enough reasons to buy a plug-in hybrid already, you can now get up to $7,500 in tax credits if you buy one. Before the stimulus package, this credit was offered for 200,000 cars total – now, it’s being offered for 250,000 cars per manufacturer. There’s also a smaller tax credit for buying electric motorcycles, three-wheeled cars and that sort of thing.
Naturally, the real question is: Where can I actually buy a plug-in hybrid? Good question. Maybe this will move things along in that regard.
The Government Is Greening Its Own Buildings
Remember when Ronald Reagan tore down those solar panels from the White House roof? We don’t know if the White House specifically is going to get new ones, but it looks like a lot of federal buildings will be getting some fun in the sun. $5.5 billion is being given to make federal buildings greener overall, and an estimated 75% of the projects will have some solar component. It’s about time.
Making The Grid Smarter
President Obama has made repeated references to the fact that our electric grid needs to be improved, and for good reason – it does. Under the bill, if you can set up a smart grid demonstration project, the government can reimburse up to 50% of the cost. These projects will be important real-world experiments, and you can bet that the successful projects will be used as templates by the businesses that bring smart grid technology to the masses.
$4.5 billion is being set aside to actually work on the grid itself, which is in need of repair. Overall, about $30 billion is going to advance smart grid technology, improve energy efficiency and develop new battery technology (batteries get about $2 billion).
Some people, like myself, are skeptical about green jobs simply appearing out of thin air, despite repeated assurances that they will come. Don’t people need to be trained? I was happy to learn that $500 million will be set aside to do just that – set up green job training programs. Teaching people how to build, operate and maintain these technologies is one of the best things we can do for the economy.
Department of Energy
Every Ecogeek’s favorite governmental department, the DOE, will be getting $16.8 billion in funding for research. Hopefully Dr. Steven Chu – who, as we all know, loves science - will make sure that the money is spent on only the most promising areas of study.
There’s a lot more in there (again, 1,000+ pages). If you want some good information sources, check out the Greentech Media article as well as this summary from the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Via Greentech Media
written by Sarah-Jane, February 18, 2009
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