Very much at risk: ACORE CEO Greg Wetstone on solar, wind and tax reform

pv magazine: Can you sum up what ACORE has done to date to try to stop the BEAT provision and the other anti-renewable energy measures in the tax reform bills?

Greg Wetstone: In a nutshell, we are working to shine a light on the impact of the critical provisions on the renewable sector. Our sense is that the effort in the House was a pretty direct assault on renewable energy and the credits for our sector that are already phasing out under a compromise broadly supported in the renewable industry. That’s a pretty straightforward case, and key Senators have been clear that they are opposed.

The other critical issues are ones where it is not clear that there was any intent to hurt renewable energy. But the Senate provisions have the potential to have very serious impacts on investment in the sector. So we are working hard to help Senators understand those repercussions. Hopefully, they can be repaired.

 

pv magazine: You say that you are working to help Senators understand this, but my understanding is that when this bill was still in committee, Senator Chuck Grassley was aware of the problems with the BEAT provisions and yet it was still in there in the final passage of the bill. What is going on?

Wetstone: These are really complicated provisions, and they moved forward on an accelerated timeframe. There was a point when the focus was on getting the votes to pass the bill and that was a critical priority. I’m hopeful that things are shifting to making sure this bill actually works the way that it was intended. I would say there is growing awareness that there are important provisions that need to be revised, or they will reverse the legislative achievements that members of the House and Senate want to stand by.

 

pv magazine: Do you think that there is a danger that provisions like the BEAT provision and the 20% Alternative Minimum Tax could stay in as a result of the desire to simply have a tax reform bill?

Wetstone: We are working very hard to make sure that is not the case, but obviously that is the fear. ACORE is working with a broad coalition and doing our best to shine a spotlight on how these provisions would actually impact renewable energy investment in the United States.

It’s worth noting that the BEAT provision is intended to promote U.S. investment by preventing U.S. companies from going offshore in order to avoid taxes. Including the tax credits the way they have has the exact opposite impact. The BEAT provisions would take tax credits that have been generated only by U.S. investment and devalue them with the result of reducing dramatically U.S. investment. That is not what this provision is intended to do, and we are hopeful that we can convince Senators that this is the reality that they need to address.

 

pv magazine: What sort of timeline do you expect the conference committee to operate on and when should we have a final bill on Trump’s desk?

Wetstone: We are assuming that it will move very quickly, and there is an urgency to everything that we do, but I would not be surprised to see this drag on for the next couple of weeks.

 

pv magazine: What is the most likely route to try and stop both the BEAT provision and this combination of the AMT and reduced corporate tax rate, and who are the actors that you think are most likely to make this change?

Wetstone: The Senate has not appointed their conference attendees yet, but we think that the Finance Committee Republicans are going to have a critical role there. And they designed these provisions, they understand the complexity of how these things operate together, and we are hopeful that there will be a willingness to respond to the information that has come out on both the AMT and the BEAT in terms of the real-world repercussions.

 

pv magazine: Is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you think is important for our readers to know, in terms of political mobilization to stop these provisions?

Wetstone: I think we have a broad effort of key players working together at a time when there is so much at stake. The tale is yet to be told in terms of how this bill is going to impact the renewable energy sector. Today we are very much at risk.

 

Gregory Wetstone is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), a national non-profit organization that unites business, policy and finance to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy.