Hope on the hill

Columns - Letter from the Editor

Important steps have been made to raise awareness of the biogas industry in Washington.

August 4, 2016

It is fair to say that many in the waste conversion industry often feel neglected by policymakers. While solar and wind seem to get all the tax breaks, biogas producers haven’t always had the same benefits extended to them. But based on some activity on Capitol Hill this summer, it appears that may be changing.

In an effort to make lawmakers aware of the unequal treatment of biogas as a renewable energy source, Steve Miller, CEO of equipment and technology companies Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), Eugene, Oregon, and Zero Waste Energy (ZWE), Lafayette, California, participated in a hearing June 14 convened by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “Energy Tax Policy in 2016 and Beyond,” brought together several stakeholders to examine energy tax provisions.

Miller described to the committee how anaerobic digestion takes organic waste streams and produces electricity and/or compressed natural gas, as well as how the remaining digestate can be used for compost or as engineered fuel.

Like many in the biogas industry, Miller said the company’s development has been slowed by low prices for electricity, oil and natural gas.

While wind and solar received long-term Investment Tax Credits (ITC) and Production Tax Credits (PTC), Miller told the committee biogas credits were extended to only the end of 2016 for the biomass industry and only applied to the renewable energy portion of projects, not the compost produced.

Among the considerations he asked for from the committee was to extend the PTC for biogas technologies for five years with no phase-out and to give those technologies an equal credit to wind per kilowatt-hour.

In other developments that same week, U.S. House Reps. Tom Reed, R-New York, and Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin, introduced the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act (HR 5489) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The American Biogas Council (ABC) applauds the bill which it says will increase the sustainability of farms by helping to deploy new nutrient recovery and biogas systems. The act calls for a 30 percent ITC for qualifying biogas and nutrient recovery systems. A companion bill, S 3248, was introduced to the Senate by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Pat Robert, R-Kansas.

Patrick Serfass, executive director of the ABC, said the two bills signify strong recognition of the need for clean waterways and more productive soils. “Biogas and nutrient recovery systems make these goals obtainable and this legislation will help incentivize those technologies,” he said.

The bipartisan support of the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act is a great sign that biogas technologies are finally getting the attention they deserve in Washington. Along with steps being taken on the regulatory front, it does appear the biogas industry is gaining much awaited support.