More tax relief to encourage corporate equity investment in wind energy and biomass projects has been introduced in Ireland's new Finance Bill. In his budget speech on December 3, finance minister Charlie McCreevy said: "Given our need to reduce emissions and to promote environmentally friendly energy sources, it is clearly desirable to provide reasonable financial assistance by way of tax relief to get such projects off the ground." Up to 50% of the total cost of a project -- excluding land costs -- may be financed under the scheme. There will be a cap of I£7.5 million on each project and an annual limit of I£10 million on the amount that any one company can invest in projects. The holding period for qualifying equity investments will be a minimum of five years. The relief -- which needs EU approval -- will apply for two years up to the end of 1999. The move comes after two years of lobbying by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA). "It is a significant breakthrough for the Irish wind energy sector and we are delighted to see it in the budget," says Paul Dowling of IWEA. "For the first time it has been acknowledged centre stage of Ireland's financial policy that renewables need to be supported. It certainly should encourage the rapid development of the wind industry in Ireland."
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