The omnibus deal—PATH (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015)–was sausage-making at its most intense, but the product should be palatable for most parties in clean energy. Extensions for renewables and efficiency tax credits were key sweeteners to lifting the oil export ban. In addition, clean energy R&D funding, reauthorization and increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and climate change funds (Clean Technology and Strategic Climate Funds of Bank for Reconstruction & Development and Global Environment Facility) were included in the deal. While the solar and wind credits are phase-downs, the trajectory should provide much-needed certainty to renewable energy investors, developers, and consumers and will serve as a bridge to implementation of the Clean Power Plan, the longer-term market driver for clean energy in the U.S.
House and Senate leaders—McConnell (supported by Chairman Hatch of Senate Finance), Reid, Ryan, and Pelosi—were key to ensuring that this deal could pass their caucuses, and the White House provided additional feedback throughout the process to ensure the President would sign the resulting package. Because of vociferous opposition to lifting the 40-year oil export ban, the environmental community for the most part had to sit this fight out. The renewable energy industries, in particular solar whose credit did not expire until the end of 2016, had to carry much of the water on the renewable energy extenders. New allies were made, especially in the Republican Caucus, that allowed for greater bipartisan support than has been seen in a number of years.
Now, the renewable energy industries can turn their focus to state and local policies, siting and permitting issues, and compliance strategies for the Clean Power Plan.