The Geniuses at DSIRE Translate the Energy Parts of the Stimulus Package

Those brainiacs at DSIRE did it again. They deciphered, dissected, and interpreted the policies and incentives contained in the voluminous federal stimulus bill, and shared these details (in record time) with ordinary folks like you and me. It’s just all in a day’s work. Whew. DSIRE’s Brian Lips tells us how they did it.

IREC: Brian, this was no small undertaking; how did you guys do it? Was it a divide and conquer strategy among the five of you?

BL: The Stimulus Bill (H.R. 1) was signed on Tuesday, February 17th, and we had all the relevant DSIRE entries added or updated by Friday, February 20th, though most were completed and online by Thursday afternoon, February 19th.

All 50 states are divided between the five staff members on a mostly regional basis, but the responsibility of federal policies and incentives are split between the five of us. So this update was a collaborative effort with each of us taking ownership of certain aspects of the bill.

A similar approach was taken when H.R. 1424 was signed in October, so the three of us who were around back then already had a good understanding of the existing incentives we had “ownership” of when H.R. 1 was signed. The two new employees we’ve added since October jumped in and created excellent new entries for the new incentives established by H.R. 1.

In some cases a single provision of H.R. 1 touched more than one policy, namely: PTC technologies being able to opt for the ITC; ITC and PTC technologies being eligible for a grant in lieu of a tax credit; and the removal of the subsidized energy financing clause from the ITC, the residential tax credit for renewable energy, and the residential tax credit for energy efficiency. In these cases, our close working relationship with one another helped ensure that our edits addressed these new provisions uniformly.

IREC: Let’s see…1,000 pages divided by five…that’s only 200 pages of legislative jargon/person. Did you do it online?

BL: The full bill was well over 1,000 pages. Fortunately for the DSIRE staff, approximately 99% of those pages did not pertain to the policies and incentives captured in DSIRE. We also had access to excellent bill summaries provided by many different organizations which helped us locate the pieces of the bill relevant to what we track. In the hours first following the signature of a new federal bill, it’s always difficult to find the final version of the bill online. But once we found the final version, it was quite simple to locate the pertinent sections and to comb through the legalese to determine how it impacted the policies.

IREC: So who are the big winners?

BL: The bill included a new tax credit for renewable energy manufacturing facilities. Small wind, solar water heat, and geothermal heat pumps all saw their caps removed from the ITC, so that’s good news for those technologies. The tax credit for energy efficient home improvements was extended through 2010 and the cap was increased, so that’s good news for homeowners. And one of the most talked about new incentive types from last year was the “Berkeley Model” which provides a mechanism for municipal financing of residential renewable energy systems in which loans are repaid through an increased property tax bill. H.R. 1 removed the provision that limits the ITC to the extent the project receives “subsidized energy financing”. With this provision removed, it clears the way for this policy to spread across American cities like wildfire.

IREC: Thanks, Brian, and DSIRE, for this remarkable research.

Modified incentives:

New incentives:

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