Sununu: Energy credit plan aids GT Solar

MERRIMACK – U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu said Monday that an eight-year extension of renewable energy tax credits he predicts the Senate will endorse today would be “enormously valuable” to GT Solar Inc. and other cutting-edge technology firms.

Sununu toured the 57,000-square-foot addition for the Merrimack maker of photovoltaic lines, manufacturing equipment and reactors for producing silicon. Company executives are hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the addition Friday.

“For GT Solar, the certainty of an eight-year extension is enormously valuable,” Sununu said.

Thomas Zarrella, GT Solar president and CEO, said a long-term extension for this 30 percent tax credit for commercial and residential solar equipment would give his firm the political certainty it needs to continue growing.

“Certainty is very important to us,” Zarrella said.

In April, Sununu co-sponsored attaching the renewable energy tax credit to a farm bill by an 88-10 Senate vote but negotiators removed it from the final bill.

This one will include a new, 10 percent tax credit for the purchase of wood pellet stoves.

“This will be completed this year and signed into law,” Sununu said. “They represent a very important part of a comprehensive energy policy.”

Democrat Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign claimed that Sununu voted in December against renewing the tax credits and paying for them by ending billions in federal subsidies for oil and gas.

“In December 2007, when John Sununu had the chance to cast the deciding vote to end billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil and invest that money in tax credits to develop alternative and renewable energy sources, he voted against it and killed the bill,” said Kate Bedingfield, Shaheen campaign spokeswoman.

“Now that it’s an election year, he’s trying to have it both ways. Sununu’s backward-looking policies that give breaks to Big Oil won’t help us achieve energy independence and create 21st century jobs here in New Hampshire. If we want a new direction in energy policy, we need a new senator.”

Sununu campaign spokeswoman Stefani Zimmerman mocked Shaheen’s energy plan.

“The only direction that Jeanne Shaheen will take us toward is higher gas prices and a greater dependency on foreign oil,” Zimmerman answered in a statement.

“Shaheen has absolutely no idea how to bring down energy prices – her only ‘solutions’ are to oppose more domestic drilling, recycle Jimmy Carter’s failed energy policies and pretend like she has the power to force OPEC to produce more oil.”

Both third-party groups and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are airing TV ads picking out select votes in which Sununu did oppose energy tax credit renewals because of what else was in those bills.

During an interview, Sununu said the Democratically led Senate will reject parts of a House-passed energy bill that lifts the ban on offshore drilling but sets distance limits on exploration and offers no revenue to neighboring states.

“I think portions of that bill are not going to pass the Senate,” Sununu said.

“There is no revenue sharing, which means very few if any states will want to permit offshore drilling under those terms.”

The offshore drilling ban expires at the end of 2008 without congressional action.

Those who want a total lifting of the offshore drilling ban will prevail in the Senate, Sununu said, because there’s not enough support to re-insert any ban into pending federal spending bills before Congress adjourns.