By Celis Brisbin, Programs Manager
Congress has passed a sprawling spending bill and tax extenders package that covers funding for all federal agencies and includes short- and longer-term extensions for a number of popular incentives for businesses and consumers. Based on an initial review of the package, it is generally a win for those in green building.
The omnibus would provide $11 billion for programs under the Department of Energy, a $794 million increase above 2015. Specifically, the Buildings Technologies Office received a $28 million increase for next year. The bill also funds programs like the Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institutes at $70 million and provides $10 million for a competitive funding opportunity to achieve deeper energy efficiency improvements in small and medium-sized buildings.
Funding levels at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were not as successful, at $8.1 billion, which is a $100 million reduction from last year’s funding. Although funding for agencies like EPA isn’t high, the good news is that the bill does not contain many of the problematic policy riders that had emerged through the appropriations process this year. USGBC commends Congress for removing policies that would have limited opportunities to pursue greater energy and water savings.
A number of real estate and energy incentives were also included for a two-year extension, one year retrospective for 2015 and one year prospective for 2016. This includes:
- The 45(L) New and Efficient Homes Credit
- The 179(D) Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction, with a standards update for 2016
- Parity for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits
The tax package also includes a five-year extension of tax incentives for wind and solar energy producers. The deal extends the 30 percent solar investment tax credit and a credit for solar-powered, energy-efficient properties for three years before winding it down for two years. Also, the deal extends the wind protection tax credit for two years before a three-year phase-out. The deal allows projects to claim the incentives once construction has been initiated, as opposed to after the project is completed. The Joint Committee of Taxation estimates these changes in total are expected to infuse more than $23 billion into the renewable energy market over the next decade.
Here's hoping that the beginning of next year is as productive as the end of 2015!