Wyden introduces energy bill amendment that benefits biomass

By Erin Voegele | March 04, 2020

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., filed an amendment to the American Energy Innovation Act on March 3 that includes an expansion of the residential energy tax credit to include efficient biomass thermal boilers and furnaces.

The American Energy Innovation Act is an energy bill package released by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., on Feb. 27. The amendment offered by Wyden addresses expiring energy tax policies by expanding incentives for clean transportation, electricity and energy efficiency.

One section of the amendment would enact a tax credit for energy efficient biomass thermal property. A summary of the amendment explains taxpayers can currently claim tax credits for up to 30 percent of the costs for certain energy efficient property that they purchase and install in their homes. The amendment would implement certain provisions of the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act by expanding the residential energy credit to provide tax credits worth up to 30 percent for efficient biomass thermal property, including boilers and furnaces.

Wyden’s amendment would also extend the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC). Under current law, taxpayers can claim a PTC worth up to 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity produced from qualifying renewable resources, including biomass. Currently, to qualify, facilities must begin construction before the end of 2020. The amendment would extend the PTC for three years, through the end of 2023.

In addition, the amendment would implement elements of the Financing Our Future Act, a bill that aims to give investors in clean energy projects access to the use of master limited partnerships (MLPs). A MLP is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership, but whose ownership interests are traded like corporate stock on a market. By statute, MLPs are currently only available to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction and pipeline projects. The amendment would provide parity for partnerships earning income from renewable energy resources.  

The Pellet Fuels Institute Alliance and For Green Heat have both spoken out to applaud the Wyden amendment and its inclusion of biomass thermal energy provisions.

"After nearly a decade of fighting for better tax parity for cleaner, more efficient residential wood and pellet heaters, we are delighted that Senator Wyden has added the residential sections of the BTU Act to this legislation,” said John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat. “It also comes at a good time when stricter EPA emissions standards and verifiable efficiency values are going into effect."

“Without Senator Wyden’s amendment biomass thermal energy would once again find itself conspicuously absent from energy policy reform,” said Tim Portz, executive director of the PFI. “We’re grateful that Wyden recognizes the role that clean, renewable pellet heating can and should play in this country’s comprehensive energy strategy.”

The PFI hosted a fly-in during October 2019 to speak with elected representatives about the wood pellet industry and its role in U.S. clean energy production. Wyden’s is one of 16 senate offices visited by PFI members during the event.

“It is gratifying to know that our message is beginning to be heard and we applaud Senator Wyden on his efforts to include biomass thermal in this important piece of energy policy,” said Portz. “We’re hopeful that the bi-partisan appeal and endorsement of wood heat that we felt during our fly-in translates into a fair hearing of this amendment as this legislation is debated in the Senate in the coming weeks.”