April 20, 2023
6 min read

Advancing Renewable Construction for a Better Future: Project Development Strategies

An overview of prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) delivered a plethora of benefits to renewable energy project developers, including billions of dollars in tax credits and newly created flexibility to transfer tax credits or capture direct pay. 

But these benefits come with strings attached, and it’s important for any clean energy project developer to understand the rules before diving into new projects. These strings are divided into two groups – “carrots” and “sticks” that the federal government is using to guide developers to meet certain conditions. Starting with the “sticks,” here is a brief overview of the eligibility rules for renewable energy Production Tax Credits (PTC) and Investment Tax Credits (ITC):

For a full analysis of IRS guidance and explanation of nuanced issues, please see this brief by Latham & Watkins.

How should developers think about these rules? 

The simplest way to approach the wage and apprenticeship rules is to treat them as necessary prerequisites to project development. Without following these rules, developers will only capture a 6% ITC or 0.52 cent/kWh and leave significant value on the table. 

Developers who fail to meet wage and apprenticeship standards may “cure” their shortcomings by repaying shortfalls plus interest, or certain fees/penalties. If the developer was determined to have intentionally failed to meet these standards, the penalty amounts increase significantly. 

Fortunately for developers, the Department of Labor already publishes wage determinations and rates, and will be adding to that list as this program takes effect. Likewise, there has been increasing interest in apprenticeship programs across the country. New programs like the Real World Academy in New Jersey and the Sustainability Hub in Illinois are springing up and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has a number of resources to support developers.

How do these prerequisites differ from adders?

So-called “adders” are the second important part of the tax credit regime created by the IRA. Serving as the “carrot” for developers, adders are true incentives for development under certain conditions. Here is a brief overview of the adders specific to the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC):

Guidance is still being developed for some of these adders. Please consult your tax attorney before claiming adders.
There are  specific parameters to the definitions above, which can be found here.

How should developers think about adders? 

Adders can be a valuable way to capture additional PTCs or ITCs for any given project. Importantly, however, developers should be thorough in their diligence of eligibility. Many tax equity investors won’t fund adders until full IRS guidance has been issued, and will expect to see diligence documents proving the project’s qualifications. 

Some groups are already publishing helpful maps to illustrate where certain adders may be available, such as energy communities and low-income communities. Here is one example from S&P Global.

But once IRS guidance is in-hand and developers can confidently assess their project locations and domestic content, the adders under the IRA can deliver even more tax equity or transfer tax credit capital to projects. 

Where do we go from here? 

The Department of Treasury and the IRS are continuing to release guidance related to the IRA. In tandem, the project developer industry is collaborating with each other and industry groups like SEIA to identify best practices and optimize for maximum development value. Over the course of 2023, expect to receive more clarity on the formal obligations under the IRA, and the informal best practices across the renewable energy industry.

Reunion Infrastructure is working with 50+ developers to source transfer tax credits for banks, insurance companies, and corporates with tax appetite in 2023 and 2024 or beyond. Whether you are a developer or taxpayer looking for credits, please reach out at info@reunioninfra.com.

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