Relief Arrives for Renewable Energy Industry - Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
Updated August 19, 2022
On August 12, 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (“Act” or “IRA”), a $400 billion legislative package containing significant tax and other government incentives for the energy industry, in particular the renewable energy industry. The bill will have an immediate impact on the wind and solar industries, along with other clean energy projects and businesses.
The IRA is a slimmed down substitute for the Build Back Better bill resulting from a compromise with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose support was necessary for the bill to pass the Senate.
The IRA comes as welcome news to the renewable energy industry as important tax incentives for wind, solar, and other renewable energy resources are set to expire or wind down. Existing law also did not provide any federal tax incentives for the rapidly growing stand-alone energy storage and clean hydrogen industries.
The IRA fixes that, and more. The Act extends the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar, geothermal, biogas, fuel cells, waste energy recovery, combined heat and power, small wind property, and microturbine and microgrid property for projects beginning construction before January 1, 2025. It also extends the production tax credit (PTC) for wind, biomass, geothermal, solar (which previously expired at the end of 2005), landfill gas, municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower, and marine and hydrokinetic resources for projects beginning construction before January 1, 2025. The IRA also allows taxpayers to include their interconnection costs as part of their eligible basis for the ITC.
The Act now allows the ITC to be taken for stand-alone energy storage (previously storage was only allowed an ITC if it was part of another project, e.g., solar). Other technologies also benefit from the IRA, including carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) (tax credit extended and modified), clean hydrogen (a new credit of up to $3 per kilogram of clean hydrogen produced), nuclear power (a new credit of up to 1.5c/kWh) and biofuel (existing credit extended).
The ITC and PTC now come with strings attached. To qualify for the restored 30% ITC and the 2.6cents/kWh PTC (adjusted for inflation), projects must pay prevailing wages during construction and the first five years (in the case of the ITC) and 10 years (in the case of the PTC) of operation, while also meeting registered apprenticeship requirements. Projects that fail to satisfy the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements will only receive an ITC of 6% or a PTC of .3c/kWh (adjusted for inflation). The prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements apply to employees of contractors and subcontractors as well as the company. These requirements are effective for projects that begin construction 60 days after the IRS issues additional guidance on this issue. Certain exceptions apply, including for certain small (less than 1 MW) facilities.
On the flip side, the Act includes enhancements that, in the case of the ITC, can increase the credit percentage if a project satisfies certain additional criteria. Bonuses are available for projects that, (1) satisfy certain U.S. domestic content requirements (10%). or (2) are located in an “energy community” (10%) or an “environmental justice” area (10% or 20%). An “energy community” is defined as a brownfield site, an area which has or had significant employment related to oil, gas, or coal activities, or a census tract or any adjoining tract in which a coal mine closed after December 31, 1999, or in which a coal-fired electric power plant was retired after December 31, 2009. An “environmental justice” area is a low-income community or Native American land (defined in the Energy Policy Act of 1992) (10%) or a low-income residential building or qualified low-income economic benefit project (20%).
The Act also creates two new methods for monetizing the ITC, PTC, and certain other credits. Tax exempt organizations will be permitted to elect a “direct pay” option in lieu of a tax credit. In a dramatic change that may have substantial impacts on renewable project finance, the Act permits most taxpayers to transfer the ITC, PTC, and certain other tax credits for cash.
For the first time, the Act includes a tax credit, known as the Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit, for companies manufacturing clean energy equipment in the U.S. such as PV cells, PV wafers, solar grade polysilicon, solar modules, wind energy components, torque tubes, structural fasteners, electrode active materials, battery cells, battery modules, and critical minerals.
The Act also contains major tax incentives, in the form of credits and enhanced deductions to spur electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles, alternative fuel refueling stations, nuclear power, energy efficiency, biofuels, carbon sequestration and clean hydrogen. Additional grants are available for interregional and offshore wind and electricity transmission projects, including for interconnecting offshore wind farms to the transmission grid.
Additional detail regarding these provisions follow below.
KEY ENERGY PROVISIONS OF THE INFLATION REDUCTION ACT OF 2022
Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
The ITC is extended for projects beginning construction prior to January 1, 2025. The ITC starts at a base rate of 6%. The ITC increases to 30% if a project, (1) pays prevailing wages during the construction phase and for the first five years of operation, and (2) meets registered apprenticeship requirements. The ITC applies to solar, fuel cells, waste energy recovery, geothermal, combined heat and power, and small wind property, and is now expanded to include stand-alone energy storage projects (including thermal energy storage), qualified biogas projects such as landfill gas, electrochromic glass, and microgrid controllers. For microturbine property the base rate is 2%, which increases to 10% if the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements are met.
Projects under one megawatt (AC) and projects that begin construction prior to 60 days after the Secretary of the Treasury publishes guidance on the wage and registered apprenticeship requirements do not have to meet the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements to qualify for the 30% ITC.
PREVAILING WAGE REQUIREMENT
The new prevailing wage requirement is intended to ensure that laborers and mechanics employed by the project company and its contractors and subcontractors for the construction, alteration, or repair of qualifying projects are paid no less than prevailing rates for similar work in the locality where the facility is located. The prevailing rate will be determined by the most recent rates published by the U. S. Secretary of Labor. Prevailing wages for the area must be paid during construction and for the first five years of operation for repairs or alterations once the project is placed in service. Failure to satisfy the standard will result in a significant penalty, including an 80% reduction in the ITC (i.e., an ITC of 6%), remittance of the wage shortfall to the underpaid employee(s) and a $5,000 penalty per failure. For intentional disregard of the requirement the penalty increases to three times the wage shortfall and $10,000 penalty per employee.
The prevailing wage requirement takes effect for projects that begin construction after December 31, 2022, but not before 60 days after the Secretary publishes its guidance. Projects under 1 MW (AC) are exempt from the requirement.
For projects with four or more employees, work on the project by contractors and subcontractors must be performed by qualified apprentices for the “applicable percentage” of the total number of labor hours. A qualified apprentice is an employee who participates in an apprenticeship program under the National Apprenticeship Act. The applicable percentage of labor hours phases in and is equal to 10% of the total labor hours for projects that begin construction in 2022, 12.5% for projects beginning construction in 2023, and 15% thereafter. Similar penalties to the prevailing wage penalties apply for failure to satisfy the apprenticeship requirement. A “good faith” exception applies where an employer attempts but cannot find apprentices in the project’s locality.
The apprenticeship requirement takes effect for projects that begin construction after December 31, 2022, but not before 60 days after the Secretary publishes its relevant guidance. Projects under 1 MW (AC) are exempt from the requirement.
Domestic Content. Assuming a project meets the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements, a qualifying project can earn a 10% ITC bonus (i.e., bringing the ITC to 40%), if it satisfies the domestic content requirement. To satisfy the domestic content requirement a project must use 100% U.S. steel and iron, and an “adjusted percentage” of the total costs of its manufactured components with products that are mined, produced or manufactured in the U.S. The applicable percentage for projects other than for offshore wind facilities initially is set at 40%, increasing to 45% in 2025, 50% in 2026, and 55% in 2027. For offshore wind facilities the adjusted percentage initially is 20%, and phases up to 27.5% in 2025, 35% in 2026, 45% in 2027, and 55% in 2028 and after. The initial domestic content bonus for projects failing to meet the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirement is 2%, which percentage similarly phases up.
There is an exception to the domestic content requirement if satisfying the requirement will increase the overall cost of construction by more than 25%, or if the relevant products are not produced in the U.S. in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or quality. Under these circumstances, the unavailability of the product is counted 100% against the adjusted percentage, that is, the adjusted percentage is calculated as if 100% U.S. content was supplied for the unavailable items.
The domestic content bonus is only available for projects placed in service after December 31, 2022.
Energy Community Bonus. A project can earn an additional 10% ITC bonus if it is built in an energy community. An energy community is defined as (a) a brownfield site (as defined under CERCLA), (b) an area that has or had significant employment related to the coal, oil, or gas industry and has an unemployment rate at or above the national average, or (c) a census tract or adjoining tract in which a coal mine closed after December 31, 1999 or a coal-fired electric power plant was retired after December 31, 2009.
The Energy Community Bonus is only available for projects placed in service after January 1, 2023.
Environmental Justice. An additional 10% and, in some cases, 20% ITC bonus, is available for solar and wind projects of 5 MW AC or less where the project is located in, or services, a low-income community. The environmental justice bonus is limited to a maximum of 1.8 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity in each of calendar years 2023 and 2024, for which a project must receive an allocation from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The 10% bonus is for projects located in a low-income community or on Native American land (defined in the Energy Policy Act of 1992). The 20% bonus is available for projects that are part of a qualified low-income residential building project or a qualified low-income economic benefit project. A qualified low-income residential project is a residential rental building that participates in a housing program such as those covered under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, a housing assistance program administered by the Department of Agriculture under the Housing Act of 1949, a housing program administered under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, or similar affordable housing programs. A qualified low-income economic benefit project is one where at least 50% of the households have income at less than 200% of the poverty line or at less than 80% of the area’s median gross income.
Storage projects installed in connection with a solar project also qualify for the environmental justice bonus, but not stand-alone storage projects. A project receiving an allocation for the environmental justice credit must be placed in service within four years of the date it receives the allocation.
Stand-Alone Storage. The Act now provides a tax credit for stand-alone energy storage projects. To qualify, the storage project must be capable of receiving, storing, and delivering electrical energy and have a nameplate capacity of at least 5 kWh. Thermal storage projects and hydrogen storage projects qualify under the new provision. Like the ITC for other technologies, the base ITC for stand-alone storage is 6%, and increases to 30% for projects that satisfy the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements or if they are placed into service prior to 60 days after the Treasury Secretary issues guidance on prevailing wage and apprenticeship standards.
Interconnection Equipment. Qualifying projects under 5 MW (AC) now may claim an ITC on their interconnection costs. The credit applies even if the interconnection facilities are owned by the interconnecting utility, so long as they were paid for by the taxpayer. This is not a stand-alone tax credit, but rather an additional cost added to a project’s basis eligible for the ITC.
Production Tax Credit (PTC)
The Act extends the production tax credit (PTC) for projects beginning construction before January 1, 2025. The PTC is set at an initial Base Rate of .3c/kwh. Like the ITC, the credit increases to 1.5c/kwh for projects satisfying the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. The 1.5 c/kWh, with the inflationary adjustment provided for the PTC, brings the PTC up to 2.6c/kWh in 2022. In addition to wind projects, the PTC is available to solar, closed-loop and open-loop biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, municipal solid waste, qualifying hydropower, and marine and hydrokinetic facilities. Thus, solar projects may now choose either the PTC or the ITC. They cannot receive both.
Like the ITC, a project can receive an enhanced PTC similar in degree to those under the ITC for satisfying the domestic content, energy community and/or environmental justice requirements. For projects meeting the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements the increase for each applicable bonus is generally 10% of the underlying credit and, for projects failing to satisfy those requirements, 2%.
Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit
The Act creates a new clean electricity tax credit (ITC and PTC) that replaces the existing ITC and PTC once they phase out at the end of 2024. The successor ITC/PTC is technology neutral. Any project producing electricity can qualify for the tax credit if its greenhouse gas emissions rate is not greater than zero. The successor ITC is 30% and the PTC is 1.5c/kWh, escalated annually with inflation. The Clean Energy ITC/PTC will phase out the later of 2032 or when emission targets are achieved (i.e., the electric power sector emits 75% less carbon than 2022 levels). Once the target is reached, facilities will be able to claim a credit at 100% value in the first year, then 75%, then 50%, and then 0%.
Clean Hydrogen Production Credit
This Act for the first time provides a tax credit for qualifying clean hydrogen projects. The credit is available for clean hydrogen produced at a qualifying facility during the facility’s first 10 years of operation. The base credit amount is $0.60 per kilogram (kg) times the “applicable percentage,” adjusted annually for inflation. For projects meeting the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements the credit amount is five times that base amount, or $3.00/kg times the applicable percentage, adjusted annually for inflation.
The applicable percentage for hydrogen projects achieving a lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions rate of less than 0.45 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kg is 100%. The applicable percentage falls to 33.4% for hydrogen projects with an emissions rate between .45kg and 1.5kg, and to 25% for hydrogen projects with an emissions rate between 1.5 kg and 2.5 kg. For hydrogen projects with a lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions rate between 4 kg and 2.5 kg of CO2e per kg, the applicable percentage is 20%.
To qualify for the credit, the facility must begin construction before January 1, 2033. Facilities existing before January 1, 2023 can qualify for a credit based on the date that modifications to their facility required to produce clean hydrogen are placed into service. Taxpayers may also claim the PTC for electricity produced from renewable resources by the taxpayer if the electricity is used at a clean hydrogen facility to produce qualified clean hydrogen. The Direct Pay option, discussed below, is available for clean hydrogen projects.
Taxpayers can elect to claim the ITC in lieu of the clean hydrogen production credit. However, taxpayers claiming the clean hydrogen credit cannot also claim a tax credit for carbon capture under Section 45Q, and vice versa.
Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Credit
Under prior law, industrial carbon capture or direct air capture (DAC) facilities that began construction by December 31, 2025, could qualify for the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon oxide sequestration. This credit could be claimed for carbon oxide captured during the 12-year period following the facility being placed in service. The per metric ton tax credit for geologically sequestered carbon oxide was set to increase to $50 per ton by 2026 ($35 per ton for carbon oxide that is reused, such as for enhanced oil recovery) and adjusted for inflation thereafter.
The Act extends the deadline for construction to January 1, 2033 and increases the credit amount. The base credit amount for CCS is $17 per metric ton for carbon oxide that is captured and geologically sequestered, and $12 per metric ton for carbon oxide that is reused. For facilities that meet the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements during construction and for the first 12 years of operation, the credit amounts are $85 per ton and $60 per ton, respectively.
The credit amount for carbon oxide captured using DAC and geologically sequestered is also increased under the Act to a base rate of $36 per metric ton, and to $180 per metric ton for projects that meet prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. The rates are indexed for inflation beginning in 2026.
The Act reduces the minimum plant size required to qualify for the credit: from 100,000 to 1,000 tons per year for DAC; from 500,000 to 18,750 metric tons per year for electric generating facilities paired with qualifying CCS equipment, and from 25,000 to 12,500 metric tons per year for any other facility. A CCS project paired with an electric generating unit will be required to capture at least 75% of unit (not facility) CO2 production.
Advanced Energy Project Credit
The Act provides a 30% credit for investments in projects that re-equip, expend, or establish certain domestic manufacturing or industrial facilities to support the production or recycling of renewable energy property. Examples of such facilities include those producing or recycling components for:
Energy storage systems and components;
Grid modernization equipment or components;
Equipment designed to remove, use, or sequester carbon oxide emissions;
Equipment designed to refine, electrolyze, or blend any fuel, chemical, or product which is renewable or low-carbon and low-emission;
Property designed to produce energy conservation technologies (residential, commercial and industrial);
Electric or fuel-cell vehicles, including for charging and refueling infrastructure;
Hybrid vehicles weighing less than 14,000 pounds and associated technologies, components, or materials;
Re-equipping industrial and manufacturing facilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%;
Re-equipping, expanding, or establishing an industrial facility for the processing, refining or recycling of critical materials.
Projects not satisfying the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements will only receive the base ITC credit of 6%.
The Act makes $10 billion available for qualifying advanced energy projects. Of that amount, at least $4 billion must be allocated to projects located in energy communities. The Treasury Secretary will establish a program to award credits to qualifying advanced energy projects. Applicants awarded credits will have two years to place the property in service. The provision goes into effect on January 1, 2023.
Advanced Manufacturing Production
The Act creates a new production tax credit that can be claimed for the domestic production and sale of qualifying solar and wind components, such as inverters, battery components and critical minerals needed to produce these components.
Credits for solar components include:
for thin film photovoltaic cell or crystalline photovoltaic cell, 4 cents per DC watt of capacity;
for photovoltaic wafers, $12 per square meter;
for solar grade polysilicon, $3 per kilogram;
for polymeric backsheet, 40 cents per square meter; and
for solar modules, 7 cents per DC watt of capacity.
For wind energy components, if the component is an offshore wind vessel, the credit is equal to 10% of the sales price of the vessel. Otherwise, the credits for various wind components vary as set forth below, which amount is multiplied by the total rated capacity of the completed wind turbine on a per watt basis for which the component is designed.
The applicable amounts for wind energy components are:
2 cents for blades
5 cents for nacelles
3 cents for towers
2 cents for fixed platform offshore wind foundations
4 cents for floating platform offshore wind foundations
for torque tubes and longitudinal purlin, $0.87 per kg
for structural fasteners, $2.28 per kg
for inverters, the credit is an amount multiplied by the inverter’s AC capacity, with different types of inverters eligible for specified credit amounts ranging from 1.5 cents to 11 cents per watt
for electrode active materials, the credit is 10% of the production cost
for battery cells the credit is $35 per kilowatt hour of battery cell capacity. Battery modules qualify for a credit of $10 per kilowatt hour of capacity (or $45 in the case of a battery module which does not use battery cells).
A 10% credit is also available for the production of critical minerals. Critical minerals include aluminum, antimony, barite, beryllium, cerium, cesium, chromium, cobalt, dysprosium, europium, fluorspar, gadolinium, germanium, graphite, indium, lithium, manganese, neodymium, nickel, niobium, tellurium, tin, tungsten, vanadium and yttrium.
For purposes of the credits for battery cells and modules, to qualify the capacity-to-power ratio cannot exceed 100:1. The term ‘capacity-to-power ratio’ means the ratio of the capacity of the cell or module to the maximum discharge amount of the cell or module.
The advanced manufacturing credit phases out for components sold after December 31, 2029. Components sold in 2030 are eligible for 75% of the full credit amount. Components sold in 2031 and 2032 are eligible for 50% and 25% of the full credit amount, respectively. No credit is available for components sold after December 31, 2032. The phase-out does not apply to the production of critical minerals.
The Act contains a valuable cash payment option that allows certain organizations to treat certain tax credit amounts including, among others, the ITC, PTC, clean hydrogen, and carbon capture credits, as payments of tax and then receive a refund for that tax that is deemed paid. Under the so-called “direct pay” option, in lieu of receiving a tax credit, an eligible entity will be treated as if it had paid taxes in the amount of the credit, for which it can then receive a cash refund. Entities eligible for the direct pay option include tax-exempt organizations, state and local governments, Indian tribes (as defined in the Act), the Tennessee Valley Authority, and any Alaska Native Corporation. The direct pay option is subject to an annual election and must be claimed by a partnership or S corporation rather than its partners or S corporation shareholders. Refunds under the direct pay provisions are treated the same as tax credits for purposes of basis reduction, depreciation rules, and recapture.
For qualifying facilities electing direct pay that do not meet the domestic content requirements, a reduction applies for projects beginning construction in 2024 (90%) and 2025 (85%). Thereafter, the direct pay option will not be available for projects that do not satisfy the domestic content requirement.
The IRA allows eligible taxpayers that do not elect the direct pay option to transfer certain credits to unrelated taxpayers including, among others, the ITC, PTC, clean hydrogen, and carbon capture credits. The transferred credit must be exchanged for cash. Credits may only be transferred once. Carryforwards or carrybacks are not transferable. Payments made to the transferor of the credit are not taxable to the transferor, nor is the payment by the transferee to the transferor deductible to the transferee.
The credit period for transferred credits is 23 years (including three years for carrybacks). The credit must be used in earliest possible year of transferee. A 20% penalty may apply for both direct payments and transfers where excessive payments have occurred.
Zero Emission Nuclear Power Production Credit
The Act includes a new PTC for the production of electricity from an existing nuclear facility that was placed in service before the date of enactment of the Act. To qualify, the electricity from the facility must be produced and sold to an unrelated person after December 31, 2023. The credit terminates on December 31, 2032. The base PTC amount is 3 cents per kWh, but is increased five times if wage and apprenticeship requirements are met (to 1.5 cents per kWh), in each case adjusted annually for inflation and reduced by a reduction amount to the extent electricity from the plant is sold at a price over $0.025/kWh.
Electric Vehicles and Hydrogen-Fueled Cars
The Act includes a $7,500 credit for taxpayers purchasing new electric vehicles and a $4,500 tax credit for used ones. The Act eliminates the previous “per-manufacturer” limits that applied to the new vehicle credit, but imposes new domestic content and assembly requirements, as well as caps on the retail price of new vehicles, and the income of the taxpayers purchasing the vehicle.
The Act also sets aside financing and credits to promote electric vehicle manufacturing. It calls for $2 billion in grants to help convert existing auto manufacturing factories into ones that make electric vehicles and $20 billion of loans for new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities. The Act extends the credits to hydrogen-fueled cars in addition to EVs.
Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit
The Act revives the expired credit for alternative fuel refueling property (i.e., electric vehicle chargers), allowing it for property placed in service before December 31, 2032. The base credit is 6% of the cost of property, and is increased to 30% if wage and apprenticeship requirements are met. The previous $30,000 cap is also increased to $100,000.
The IRA puts in place a 10-year window in which a lease for offshore wind development cannot be issued unless an oil and gas lease sale has also been held in the year prior and is not less than 60 million acres. The Act also withdraws the Trump administration’s moratorium on offshore wind leasing in the southeastern U.S. and eastern Gulf of Mexico.
The Act includes $27 billion toward a clean energy technology accelerator to support deployment of emission-reduction technologies, especially in disadvantaged communities. The EPA Administrator would be permitted to disburse $20 billion to “eligible recipients,” which are defined as non-profit green banks that “provide capital, including by leveraging private capital, and other forms of financial assistance for the rapid deployment of low- and zero-emission products, technologies, and services.
Clean Fuel Production Credit
The Act creates a new tax credit for domestic clean fuel production starting in 2025 and expires for transportation fuels sold after December 31, 2027. The tax credit is calculated as the applicable amount multiplied by the emissions factor of the fuel. The base credit is $0.20 per gallon of transportation fuel produced at a qualified facility and sold, which increases to $1.00 if prevailing wage requirements are met. The base credit is $0.35/gallon for sustainable aviation fuel, $1.75 if labor and wage requirements are satisfied. The emissions factor of the fuel may reduce the credit amount. The credits are adjusted for inflation. The credit cannot be claimed if other clean fuel credits are claimed, including clean hydrogen production.