NRECA to Congress: Give Co-ops Direct-Pay Incentives for Clean Energy

NRECA is calling on Congress to provide direct incentive payments to electric co-ops to employ clean energy technologies, such as this wind-solar hybrid project created by Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Minnesota. (Photo By: Jonathan Kratzke)

NRECA is urging congressional leaders to provide electric cooperatives with direct payments to develop clean energy projects—giving them incentives comparable to the tax breaks granted to investor-owned utilities.

For-profit utilities have long received federal tax breaks for providing power from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. But not-for-profit co-ops and public power utilities haven’t been able to tap into those programs because they are exempt from federal income taxes.

In a letter to top congressional leaders, NRECA, the American Public Power Association and the Large Public Power Council asked for direct payments to member-owned and community-owned utilities to help employ technologies such as battery storage, carbon capture and electric vehicle charging networks.

“Allowing public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives to receive these tax credits in the form of direct payments for building clean energy infrastructure would ensure that all utilities serving all Americans would have equal access to these federal resources,” said the May 14 letter, which was signed by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, APPA President/CEO Joy Ditto and LPPC President John Di Stasio.

“The direct payments would be used to help offset project costs—increasing the incentive for further investments—and would enable public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives to own these facilities directly. It would also mean more local projects, with local jobs, under local control.”

The issue is one of NRECA’s top legislative priorities for this session of Congress.

The letter points out that co-ops and community-owned electric utilities together serve nearly 30% of all retail electric customers.

“The President and Congress have ambitious climate goals that cannot be met by leaving nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electric utility customers without access to incentives and support,” the three association leaders wrote.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 2030 to help slow climate change. Matheson and the other association leaders called that “a daunting challenge” with a hefty price tag that must be borne in part by co-op consumer-members and public power customers.

“As such, we cannot afford inefficient or ineffective policies,” they wrote.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.