The Week in Green Energy: Getting to 1603?

On Thursday night Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D ? Nev.) introduced a tax package with a provision that would extend by one-year important green energy stimulus programs, including the very popular 1603 cash grants. By adding the green funding provisions Reid hopes to get liberal Democrats to support the tax cut extension brokered by President Obama earlier this week.

It’s the second time in a week that the Senate considers an extension of the 1603 grants. Republicans don’t like the grants, arguing that they?re?just “more government spending.” But obviously, Republicans also want to get the tax cuts extended and so could cave in and support a full extension of the green stimulus package, including the 1603 grants.

The green provision “provides incentives to create clean energy jobs, energy-efficient homes and investments in renewable energy,? Reid said, according to The Hill. ?It will ensure that the millions of Americans still looking for work in this economy will continue to have the safety net they rely on to make ends meet,? Reid adds.

The grants, which are administered by the Treasury Department, cover up to 30 percent of the renewable energy projects. Renewable energy financier?Pat Eilers, managing director of Madison Dearborn Partners in Chicago says nearly $2 billion of 1603 grants were disbursed in 2009 which helped stimulate nearly $9 billion of new investments. The 1603 grants have also helped build supported the deployment of 1,179 solar energy systems, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Ahead of the vote on Monday environmentalists and green lobbyists applauded the Reid proposal.? “This is a great day for American workers,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Denise Bode, in a statement. She adds: “We have a lot of work to do to ensure that this victory is upheld in the House and Senate, and signed by the President.”

But ironically, a proud green liberal — Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) –?could kill the extension of the 1603 grants as he?has said that he would filibuster?the tax cut bill. The culprit for this surreal situation is really the country’s lack of a long-term, solid energy policy. So far all attempts to establish such a policy have failed. This creates a situation in which a critical issue like renewable energy becomes just a mere legislative “provision,” that’s inserted into a larger legislative package and owes it?s survival to short-term legislative strategizing!

As we were putting The Week… to press ABC News’s The Note blog reported that Sanders had railed against the tax bill for a couple of for more than eight hours on the Senate floor.

General Electric, (one of the companies that’s called for an extension of the 1603 grants), says that it’s doubled its renewable energy and cleantech investments over the past two years, having invested $6 billion in renewable energy infrastructure projects, from $3 billion in 2008. Making up GE?s global renewable energy portfolio are 95 wind farms, 40 solar installations, six hydroelectric projects, 12 landfill gas facilities, and 15 projects involving other technologies.

One of GE’s cornerstone project, the 845 megawatts Shepherds Flat wind farm in Oregon is close to securing construction financing.? An industry source tells G.E.R. that he expects the $1.3 billion financing to be over-subscribed when it closes at the end of the year.

VC and PE Watch

Infinity Private Equity Group, an RMB and dollar-funded private equity investors, led a $14.3 million private placement in THT Heat Transfer Technology?a Chinese?developer of industrial heat exchangers.

French bank BNP Paribas raised ?437 million ($581 million) for a renewable energy-focused fund that invests in European green power infrastructure.

A government-backed U.S. lender is looking to hire outside venture capital and private equity firms to manage two funds that will support early-stage cleantech and renewable energy companies.

Minerco Resources,?a developer of renewable energy projects in Latin America secured a $5 million private equity investment from?Centurion Private Equity, an affiliate of Alpharetta, Ga., Roswell Capital Partners.

Rambling

A recent article published in the online paper AnnArbor.com offered these interesting data points from the University of Michigan:

At U-M, clean energy innovation has surged over the last decade. The U-M Tech Transfer Office reports 213 ?invention disclosures? in its portfolio of faculty innovation, including 55 that are licensed to existing companies and 70 that are being actively marketed.

Just 10 years ago, the university was reporting fewer than five clean tech inventions annually, said Jim Deane, senior licensing specialist with U-M?s Tech Transfer Office.

As Congress is set to vote on extending 1603 grants and other key green subsidies, the country’s green (and largely government-backed) R&D remains healthy and has obviously benefited from all the government support, let’s hope it stays that way!

Photo: DSM888, flickr

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