President George W. Bush signed off on H.R. 6, the Clean Energy Act of 2007, on Dec. 12, 2007. It served as one of the few last-minute pieces of legislation that was agreed to on both ends of Pennsylvania Ave.

At various stages of the process, it looked as though passage of such legislation was a lost cause, when the legislation drew a veto threat through the issuance of a Statement of Administration Policy from the president, regarding two primary areas of concern. Among the provisions generating concern from the president were tax incentives for consumers and business owners estimated at nearly $22 billion and a requirement for utilities to generate as much as 15 percent of their power from renewable sources.

Incentives estimated at $22 billion were allocated for investments in energy-efficiency improvements for commercial buildings, including for purchase of solar and wind technologies. While House Democrats attempted to include “pay for” requirements to offset these tax incentives to the detriment of the oil and gas industries, the Senate voted to remove such provisions from the energy legislation. However, a parliamentary vote held on the tax incentive portion failed by a single vote, leading supporters of the initiative to believe the issue may be reconsidered in 2008. The requirement for utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, including wind and solar power, by the year 2020, also was included in the original House package.

With the removal of the tax provision, attempts failed to extend beyond 2008 a “Commercial Building Tax Deduction” for energy-efficient improvements that would have included investments in lighting and other products serviced and installed by electrical contractors. Without further congressional action, Commercial Building Tax Incentives will expire at the end of 2008. At this point, the deduction is limited to $1.80 per square foot of the commercial property, with allowances for partial deductions for improvements in interior lighting, HVAC, hot water and building envelope systems.

Other provisions potentially impacting electrical contractors are new lighting standards that call for a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency for certain lighting products. The energy legislation also will phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012–2014.