What infrastructure-minded private companies in renewable energy, manufacturing, construction, and healthcare should know now
Many private companies are hoping to take advantage of the broad range of infrastructure-related opportunities likely on the horizon. But they’re in uncharted waters for now, as conversations continue in Washington around the two bills that could bring these “hard” and “soft” infrastructure initiatives – the $1 trillion proposed infrastructure bill and the broader $3.5 trillion budget.
While the end results of these plans are still uncertain, in the meantime, having a general idea of some of the most important points under discussion can give companies a leg up on positioning themselves for success when the time comes.
Here, CohnReznick leaders from a variety of industries – Renewable Energy, Construction, Manufacturing and Distribution, and Healthcare – share what they think are the top insights businesses in those sectors should know now to prepare for the potential opportunities ahead. Note that details are subject to change as lawmakers continue to develop this legislation, and stay tuned for more information and insights over the weeks and months ahead. (Watch our Inside Infrastructure resource center, and make sure you’re subscribed to receive our email updates.)
While policy has been a main driver of renewable energy development, the tax code has been one of the bigger obstacles. But the current budget bill contains a number of considerations that indicate a very fundamental shift toward not only clean energy production, but also initiatives and incentives that can help attain a climate change impact in a positive way. It will be interesting to see which come to fruition and which do not.
Anton Cohen, Renewable Energy practice leader, and Lee Peterson, senior manager and legislative liaison, shared highlights:
- The production tax credit (PTC) and the investment tax credit (ITC) would be extended for 10 years.
- The proposal would expand the list of ITC-eligible properties to include standalone energy storage, which is something truly new that presents a massive opportunity for major change in the climate area, as well as business and development.
- The bill also proposes ITCs for electric transmission property and biogas digester property, and new credits for clean hydrogen technology.
- The bill proposes new rules around prevailing wages, apprenticeship programs, and domestic content that would be required for project stakeholders to claim the full ITC or PTC, which would mean that everyone who’s going to be using those credits would have new recordkeeping and compliance obligations. The penalties for not complying with them would be extremely steep. So companies are going to have to get organized about how to do that, and get it right. (Read our full overview of these proposed provisions for more details.)
- Another major substantive change in getting rid of an obstacle to clean energy would be an elimination of the tax-exempt use rules for certain clean energy tax credit deals that involve both the ITC and the PTC. If you were a government agency or a tax-exempt organization, no tax credits were available, and the economics of these deals became problematic and a lot of deals just never got done. This change would impact private-sector companies who are serving governments and tax-exempt businesses as well as those entities themselves.
- A possible change on the capital markets side is a proposal to allow publicly traded partnerships or master limited partnerships to own renewable energy property. This change would allow new access for many more people to clean energy through the publicly traded partnership market.
- Similarly, the real estate investment trust (REIT) area historically has been limited in its renewable energy activity outside the transmission sector simply because the tax rules don’t provide investment tax credits in an efficient manner for a REIT. With the bill, there’s a proposal to allow the tax credits to be converted to a refundable tax credit, i.e., turned into cash.
- There is a proposal to put the U.S. on a clean energy standard by 2035. This would cause a huge policy incentive because companies would be forced by regulation to do it.
- There is a proposal to penalize electric utilities that don’t adopt enough renewable energy; but, there are also grants and money to help them make the transition.
CohnReznick is cautiously optimistic that we’re on the verge of an opportunity to re-invest in the decaying infrastructure critical to our communities, create new jobs and new platforms, and re-fortify the heavy construction industry. Jack Callahan, Construction industry leader, offers some key considerations:
- To maximize the benefits of the infrastructure funding, contractors and real estate developers should be thinking beyond the project to the new platforms created via the funding. Keep your eyes and ears open to recognize the full scale of the opportunity. Think about the infrastructure bill’s $86 billion Amtrak earmark. The improvement to, and expansion of, terminals and rail lines creates a host of other opportunities to benefit from the expanded Amtrak network platform beyond terminal or rail construction.
- Contractors need to figure out how to get their businesses geared up to participate in these programs. Too many aren’t adapting fast enough to comply with new environmental, social, and governmental compliance requirements expected to be attached to the federal funding.
- The administration has mentioned public-private partnerships (P3s) as being one of the financing vehicles that can be used to fund infrastructure projects. There has been an incredible accumulation of capital sitting as dry powder; there’s a lot of money to be potentially invested in infrastructure.
- With the advancements of P3s as effective alternatives to design-bid-builds, the public’s demand for infrastructure improvements, the government’s willingness to tap private investment capital, and an aging workforce at public utilities, CohnReznick anticipates a significant leverage opportunity ahead. Lever a trillion dollars in the infrastructure bill 10x with private capital and we’ll see real improvement to our nation’s and our community’s infrastructure.
- As opportunities materialize, so will the benefits for contractors. However, the first few months after passage will be critical. The administration must show commitment to delivering funding quickly and pushing to get projects off the boards and into production.
The plans introduce several tax credits and incentives applicable to manufacturers, but there seems to be particular confusion around the “Buy American” provisions in the infrastructure bill and how they apply to manufacturers. Henrietta Fuchs, Manufacturing and Distribution industry co-leader, offers some insights to help clarify what, exactly, is applicable to manufacturers and what is expected of them:
- The bill establishes criteria that need to be met in order for various types of products to be considered as produced in the U.S.:
1. For iron or steel products, all manufacturing processes, from the initial melting stage through the application of coatings, must take place in the U.S.
2. For manufactured products, the product must be manufactured in the U.S., and the cost of the components of manufactured products that are mined, produced, or manufactured in the U.S. must be greater than 55% of the total cost of all components.
3. All manufacturing processes for construction materials must occur in the U.S.
- The "Buy American" provisions require every federal agency to impose a domestic preference on every infrastructure project that receives federal funding.
- The bill’s requirements effectively would separate manufacturers into three categories:
1. Manufacturers with a largely domestic supply chain, which would have an early competitive advantage and could benefit almost immediately from these provisions
2. Manufacturers that must make small adjustments to their supply chain or manufacturing processes to lower the foreign content in their products, but would be able to pivot easily
3. Manufacturers that would not be able to comply with the requirements unless they made significant shifts in their supply chain or manufacturing processes
- Manufacturers would need to have the processes and systems to fully understand their inventory costing, and the record-keeping and data analytic tools to either demonstrate that they meet the criteria and/or effectively weigh the costs benefits of making needed changes to their supply chain to qualify. Manufacturers behind in these areas would need to move quickly to catch up or risk falling further behind.
In many ways, infrastructure is healthcare; much of what happens outside hospital walls has a direct impact on community health and health outcomes. Plus, to have a healthy economy, we need a healthy population. This is where the infrastructure and budget plans address both physical and human components for the healthcare market, said Caroline Znaneic, managing director, Healthcare Industry. Key considerations for the healthcare sector include those that address the social determinants of health:
- The budget bill includes investments that would expand healthcare benefits and access to care, including:
- Increased benefits under the Medicare program for dental, vision, and hearing, and home- and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities
- Insurance premium subsidies through the use of the public health marketplace
- Expanded coverage for those not otherwise covered under state Medicaid expansion efforts
- The infrastructure bill would help address and provide the opportunity to achieve optimal health through investments in clean drinking water, public safety, remediating pollution, fighting climate change, and more.
- Also of note is that the infrastructure bill would expand broadband access in rural and other underserved areas. As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband access is not currently evenly available or robust enough across the country to support the ability to provide healthcare access via telehealth, and a lack of broadband access can also make it challenging to simply access personal health information, obtain and manage insurance coverage, compare providers and pricing, order healthy food and medication online, and maintain the social connections needed for mental health. The bill could provide better, more equitable access – and so providers and others in this sector will need to make sure they have the capabilities (technological and otherwise) to support those online services.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill:
Where Do We Go From Here?