The Impact of Three Tax-Reform Proposals on the Financial Performance of Energy Plants

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In recent years, several members of Congress have proposed comprehensive tax reforms: Representative David Camp in February 2014, Senator Max Baucus in December 2013, and Senators Ron Wyden and Dan Coats in 2011. This study quantifies the impact of the Baucus, Camp, and Wyden-Coats proposals on the illustrative project economics of different electricity-generation sources. We at AEIC used a model that estimates the financial performance of electricity-generating facilities to set up an equivalent comparison of the impact of the three tax-reform proposals on three illustrative facilities: a windpower project, a solar-photovoltaic (PV) project, and a combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant. Specifically, we examined the impact of changes to the corporate income-tax rate, depreciation rules, and energy-specific tax credits under the three proposals.

All three tax-reform proposals raise the levelized cost of energy from all three projects, compared with current policy, when project owners fully monetize all tax benefits.  Additionally, changes to depreciation rules affect the cost of wind- and solar-electricity generation more than that of conventional gas-fired electricity generation, as capital costs make up a larger proportion of total energy project costs for renewable energy sources. Changes in depreciation and corporate income tax slightly diminish the effective value of energy investment- and production-based tax credits. Finally, the use of tax equity reduces the cost-effectiveness of energy tax incentives.