Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (the "Treasury") and the U.S. Department of Energy (the "DOE") announced an estimated $3 billion for the development of renewable energy projects around the country. Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("ARRA"), the program will provide direct payments in lieu of tax credits in support of an estimated 5,000 bio-mass, solar, wind, and other types of renewable energy production facilities.
ARRA authorized the Treasury to make direct payments to companies that create and place in service renewable energy facilities beginning January 1, 2009. A company can only apply for payment after the renewable energy property has been placed in service. Previously these companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of the renewable energy project’s costs; under the new program, applicants would agree to forgo tax credits down the line in favor of an immediate reimbursement of a portion of the property expense. This direct payment program allows for an immediate stimulus in local economies.
In recent years, the tax credit has been widely used. As an example, in 2006, approximately $550 million in tax credits were provided to 450 businesses. However, the rate of new renewable energy installations has fallen since the economic downturn, as projects have had a harder time obtaining financing. The Treasury and DOE expect a fast acceleration of businesses applying for the announced energy funds in lieu of the tax credit.
To expedite implementation of the program, the DOE and Treasury have made the terms, conditions, guidance, and sample application available at www.treas.gov/recovery/1603.shtml. The Treasury and DOE are not accepting applications yet, but these available forms will allow companies to prepare applications and expedite the implementation of the program when the government is ready for submissions on August 1, 2009. The DOE and Treasury have 60 days to process the application once submitted.