Congress gives solar another big boost

Good news keeps rolling in for the solar industry this week. Congress today extended the 30 percent investment tax credit for homeowners and businesses for installing renewable energy systems.

Green energy advocates say the federal action signals long-term support to consumers and investors in the growing renewables market. The tax credit, know as the ITC, was scheduled to expire next year. It’s been extended five years as part of an omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive told this newspaper that the credit was vital for the continued expansion of the industry.

The Solar Energy Industries Association credits the ITC for the strong industry growth by making it cheaper for consumers to install solar systems.

The association said the ITC would help the industry add 220,000 jobs and lead to $133 billion in private investment in the next five years. “The solar industry now has a seat at the table with the nation’s other major electricity producers,” said  Rhone Resch, CEO of the D.C.-based association.

Wind industry officials also praised the extension.

Earlier this week, California regulators proposed extending net metering rates for new solar customers. The program allows renewable customers to sell back unused energy to utilities for retail credit. The proposed decision by the California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to be finalized in late January.

“This is a very important step forward and a great example for other states,” said Rick Gilliam, program director for Vote Solar.

California utilities criticized the proposal, saying it will undermine long-term growth of the solar industry. The utilities argued that solar customers get discounts at the expense of non-solar customers.

Photo courtesy of SolarCity.



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  • Frederick Douglass

    Congress decided to pay for the continued existence of the solar industry.

  • elkhornsun

    PG&E buys the energy from my solar installation for $0.03 and that includes peak demand periods from 12 to 6 in the afternoon during summer months and resells that energy to its customers at rates from $0.14 to $0.34 per kilowatt. The solar installation did not cost PG&E a penny to put into place and they pay nothing to maintain it and they have a reliable power source for decades. The utility is getting a free ride on the backs of homeowners who have installed solar and has nothing to complain about.

    The subsidy from the feds is a tiny fraction of the ongoing billions in direct and indirect (as with roads for the coal industry and insurance for the nuclear industry and the ongoing pollution and health costs for workers and people living around the plants) subsidies for oil, gas, nuclear, and coal industries.

    What those in the power transmission segment have known for years is that the infrastructure as it is now built is very fragile and it take very little to create a cascading blackout across large regions. The best hope at this time is the advent of solar installations with smart inverters that buffer the electrical supply lines and prevent the momentary interruption of power that can result in the cascading failures in the grid. This also cost the power transmission companies nothing as the costs are paid with the construction of the PV solar installations.

    Where solar excels is in providing power generation at the point where it will be consumed, and so avoids the large investments in transmission lines that are required for single large power generation plants. Wind produces far more power in the USA but wind farms are located in areas of very low population density and so new power transmission systems must be built to transport the energy produced.