The ongoing debate over Idaho’s energy future and portfolio saw a new twist Monday thanks to Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly.
Roberts, unhappy with a proposed deal that would allow state solar and wind producers to receive a sales tax rebate until Dec. 31, 2014, as long as contracts are signed by Oct. 31, 2011, brought a bill that would give the same credit to other renewable energy projects, but not wind or solar.
The new bill would give other renewable projects like biomass and geothermal until the end of 2014 to claim tax rebates.
Roberts said that wind should be excluded because the program was designed to incentivize the creation of a new industry in the Gem State and that the rebate had achieved its purpose. “Wind energy is well-started,” said Roberts. He also has issues with the intermittent nature of wind and solar – meaning that he doesn’t like that they don’t generate electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
The new bill came the same day Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, proposed a plan to give the rebate to all renewable energy projects. Wind and solar projects must have contracts signed before the end of October, one of the pieces of compromise worked out in stakeholder meetings about the bill.
House Revenue and Taxation Committee Chair Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, attempted to send Eskridge’s bill ahead to the second reading calendar in the House – effectively skipping public testimony on the measure – but several committee members objected to the move. Lake felt that because several hearings had already been held on the issue that the measure could go straight to the floor.
The merits of renewable energy have been one of the biggest underlying discussions of the 2011 legislative session. Lawmakers have already killed an earlier version of Eskridge’s bill because stakeholders weren’t thrilled with some of the language. Lawmakers on another panel, the House State Affairs Committee, considered imposing a two-year moratorium on wind farms, but ultimately killed that measure as well.
The House Revenue and Taxation Committee could take up the dueling tax rebate bills as early as Wednesday.
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