Stimulus bill pushes renewable energy

Water flows through one of the chutes of the Brilliant Hydro-Electric Dam on the Kootenay River just outside of Castlegar, British Columbia July 7, 2006. REUTERS/Andy Clark

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The $825 billion economic stimulus package unveiled by Democrats in the House of Representatives on Thursday contains billions of dollars in tax breaks for renewable energy as well as spending for energy efficiency and transmission.

The legislation aimed at reinvigorating the U.S. economy, which is currently in a recession, would provide $20 billion in tax cuts for alternative energy including a multiyear extension of the production tax credit for wind, geothermal, hydro power and bioenergy.

The bill would also provide tax credits for research and development concentrated on energy conservation and efficiency.

President-elect Barack Obama has touted his commitment to developing clean energy sources for fuel and power and creating a new “green” economy. Obama has pledged to invest $150 billion over 10 years to develop alternative energy, which he says will create 5 million jobs.

Other measures in the bill include $32 billion to modernize the nation’s power transmission grid to support more clean energy, $16 billion to retrofit some public housing to use less energy, and $2.4 billion for developing carbon capturing technology that could be utilized at coal-fired power plants to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, said it is essential the federal government begins process to update the national power transmission system.

“Thomas Edison would have recognized the technology in the power grid, so getting the equipment in the power grid to support digital economy is one of highest priority investments we can make,” Detchon said.

Detchon referred to the money allocated for smart grid technology as a “down payment” for the much larger investment that will be necessary to facilitate more alternative energy use, plug-in hybrids and greater energy efficiency.

Another $6 billion is included in the stimulus bill to weatherize modest-income homes. Obama has said he plans to weatherize 1 million homes annually.

Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Jim Marshall