With the passage of the economic recovery package by Congress last week, banks aren’t the only ones relieved; proponents of energy efficiency efforts are as well.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) commends Congress on including in the package provisions for the extension of expired and expiring tax incentives for renewable energy, energy-efficient building upgrades, and appliance and equipment purchases.

“These energy provisions are essential to realizing ASHRAE’s goal of reaching net-zero-energy buildings,” says Bill Harrison, ASHRAE president. “But more importantly, they are essential for the energy independence of our nation. While the banking industry may be visibly suffering now due to these economic times, we will all suffer if we don’t find ways to take advantage of alternative energy sources and make our buildings more efficient.”

Though several attempts were made during the 110th Congress to extend these credits and incentives, those attempts failed due to disagreement over funding issues.

One key provision in the legislation is the extension of the Commercial Building Tax Deduction (CBTD) through 2013. This allows building owners to claim a deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for HVAC, lighting or envelope upgrades resulting in 50% savings over ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2001. This five-year extension allows for the planning schedules often needed in design and construction, whereas the provision previously was only certain for shorter periods, affecting its usefulness.

The legislation additionally creates new credits for combined heat and power system property, small wind energy property, and geothermal heat pump systems through 2016.

Other energy provisions in the legislation include:
  • Extending the Renewable Energy Production Credit for wind to 2010, biomass, geothermal, solar and hydro to 2011, and adds a marine/tidal credit through 2012.

  • Extending credits for solar energy property, fuel cell property and microturbines through 2016.

  • Establishing provisions for Energy Conservation Bonds issued by states or localities to conduct energy conservation projects.

  • Extending residential tax credits for energy saving appliances, energy efficient homes, and on-site renewables.

  • Adding accelerated depreciation period for smart meters and smart grid systems, encouraging investment in these systems.

  • Extending a program providing tax-exempt bond designation to designated green building and sustainable design projects on brownfields.

  • Extending the expired business research credit through 2009.