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Louisiana's Solar Tax Credit Under Review

The Louisiana Department of Revenue weighed the future benefits of solar energy at a public hearing last week in Baton Rouge.

Homeowners in Louisiana can choose solar-generated electricity and realize a 50-percent, one-time, refundable, state income tax credit for the purchase and installation of the system under provisions of the Wind and Solar Energy Systems Tax Credit created by state legislation in 2007.

Louisiana’s investment in this incentive program is something the solar energy industry does not want to see fade away.

Nearly 100 people, from all over the state and nation, filed into the hearing room to shed some light on LDR’s rules for the Income Tax Credits for Wind or Solar Energy Systems. 

The solar power industry generated more than just energy that day as more than a dozen people registered to speak.

“It appears there was a lot of interest,” said Byron Henderson, press secretary for the Department of Revenue, “This is just a public hearing on proposed rule changes for the tax credits on the wind and solar energy systems.”

Tucker Crawford, co-owner of a Louisiana-based solar energy company and president of the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association – which is a non-profit, trade organization that represents solar and renewable energy firms in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama– told the committee that the entire Louisiana solar industry has far exceeded the state’s initial estimates.

“That’s a good thing to Louisiana energy consumers,” Crawford said. “In 2007, Louisiana only had five licensed solar installers. Today, we have 196 and counting; many of them are represented here today.”

Crawford said that the 2007 state law – which allowed income tax credits for wind or solar energy systems purchased and installed by taxpayers to cut costs on their homes or buildings – has created local jobs, increased the state’s energy independence and reduced or eliminated utility bills for more than 3,100 Louisiana households.

He said that according to his projections, the state’s solar-electric consumers can save an estimated $90 million over the life of these installed systems.

“This (tax) credit has helped deliver as many as 1,000 direct and indirect paying jobs...to Louisiana,” he said. “Suppliers, professional services, transportation industries, specialty contractors and money others are benefitting from this tax credit.”

Crawford said that in addition to the new job creation, the long-term utility bill savings for consumers “translates into disposable household income to directly enhance the state’s economy”.

Also addressing the committee was Stephen Shelton, executive director of the Louisiana Clean Tech Network, who said promoting solar energy use is in the state’s best interest.

“We believe the people in this room and in the industry represented proves here today that solar energy is here for the future,” Shelton said. “It’s not a new industry. It’s been around for over 10 years and it’s not an industry that is going to fade away.”

Shelton said that if the state’s tax incentives for solar were not “properly handled at this stage of development” the solar energy industry could go in the wrong direction.

“We all believe in this industry and we all work in this industry for the same three reasons: it’s good for the people, it’s good for profit and it’s good for the environment.” he said.

Craig Page – who said he was a “small, electrical contractor” with a company called Optimize Solar – spoke in favor of the industry and the state tax incentives.

“I had an electrical contracting business and the recession kind of hit me hard on residential construction,” Page said. “These tax incentives and this solar industry gave me an opportunity to rebound from that. I believe that changing it would just devastate the progress that has been made. I think that reasonable restrictions need to be put in place so that tax credits can’t be taken advantage of.”

One speaker stated that Louisiana’s growing solar energy industry is being watched “very closely”, around the world. 

Wolfgang Beaugrand, the southeast, regional manager for German-based solar panel manufacturer MAGE Solar USA, said that companies like his are watching what happens with the state’s incentive program and industry.

“In Louisiana, you have actually achieved a healthy industry,” Beaugrand said. “And to build an industry that is capable of doing excellent work and excellent installation...the most important part is to continue what you are doing right now. If you are making any changes at all, they need to be slowly and soundly...otherwise we have an impact that could be potentially devastating for the industry.”

Robert Suggs, the CEO for South Coast Solar, said that state’s tax incentive program has helped grow his company from five employees in 2007 to over 40 installers who bring money for contracted work from other states and who are contracted to work outside of the US as well.

“Our employees live and work full-time in our state and spend their money in our communities, the vendors we work for and with are local with a local workforce and live in the same communities that we work in,” Suggs said. “Since it’s inception, South Coast Solar has put over $6.6 million dollars back into the local economies, that’s nearly 18 percent of the state’s expenses. The state’s investment...has yielded multiple returns."

This article was originally published on The Eunice News and was reprinted with permission. 

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