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Congress Finally Gives Solar Industry 'Policy Certainty'

Written by Ucilia Wang

It's official: The renewable energy tax credits are here to stay.

President Bush signed the mammoth bill containing about $18 billion in energy tax credits, part of a large tax package and financial market bailout plan Friday afternoon.

The signing came less than two hours after the House of Representatives passed the bill.

The House approved the energy tax credits after rejecting them only a week ago. The tax credits will go to businesses and residents who invest in renewable energy, from building and operating solar and wind power plants to installing small-wind turbines on residential properties.

The vote ended more than a year of bickering between the House and the Senate over extending the credits. Without an extension, the tax credits would have expired at the end of the year.

"By passing this bill, Congress has finally given the solar energy industry 'policy certainty' that will attract investment, expand manufacturing and lower the cost of solar energy to consumers," said Roger Efird, SEIA [Solar Energy Industries Association] chairman and president of Suntech America (STP), in a statement. "This will allow companies like mine to move forward with expansion plans to serve the growing U.S. market."

The House agreed to the same energy tax credits it had rejected last Friday [Sept. 26], when it mulled over the provisions along with a slew of other tax breaks for education, businesses and families, as well as relief money for hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast.

The entire tax package had come from the Senate. The House modified the package before voting for it last week because the Senate's version didn't contain enough revenues to offset the tax breaks.

The chambers had disagreed over tax breaks for fossil-fuel production. The House removed incentives for refineries to process oil from shale or tar sands -- or make fuel from coal -- provisions inserted by the Senate to win Republicans' vote.

When the House on Monday rejected a $700 billion plan to prop up the ailing financial market, Senate leaders saw an opportunity to push for the tax package again.
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