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In Obama's Tax Cut Deal, a Silver Lining for Clean Energy

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There's great value in a glass that's half full -- and that's just how I feel about President Obama's tax cut deal with Republicans.

The extension of widely loathed Bush-era tax cuts, which was signed into law last Friday, has been decried by just about everyone who isn't a millionaire. But it was a compromise, a necessary evil. Like any good compromise, there was something in it for everyone -- and tens of thousands of Americans with jobs in the renewable energy sector will sleep a little easier this holiday season as a result.

Largely drowned out by the political shouting match was the deal's extension of several key energy tax credits, including the Treasury Grant Program. This program subsidizes wind and solar projects -- and in the ramp-up to its expected Dec. 31 expiration date, the renewable energy industry had ground to a halt. Thanks to President Obama's negotiations, the program is in place for another year.

What does this mean for 2011? A lot -- and it's all good. It means renewable energy will continue to be a promising source of jobs and renewal while the economy crawls out of the recession. It means wind farms will go up and solar projects will get more green lights, faster. It means, as American Wind Energy Association Denise Bode told The New York Times, "a great holiday present for the 85,000 American workers in the wind energy industry, tens of thousands of whom will now be able to get back to work.''

Indeed, 2011 is going to be a great year for renewable energy. Aside from tax credits that will encourage growth of wind and solar, the stage is set. At SmartPower, we've seen business booming as utilities and state and federal agencies expand their clean energy and energy efficiency programming. We've seen the need for creative, community-driven solutions to the energy problems of today, tomorrow and beyond. And we're glad the government is doing something to support the renewables industry -- even if it's far from what they could be doing, given the right mix of leadership and priorities.

The challenge, though, is 2012 and beyond. Congress can't sit on its hands, waiting the for renewable energy tax credits to expire, hoping that the whole "clean energy future" thing will figure itself out. In the New Year, I'll continue working hard to remind our elected leaders -- and all individual citizens -- of the importance of being energy smart.

Together, let's make 2011 the best year yet for clean energy and energy efficiency.

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