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The photovoltaic industry has gotten a bad rap because of its need for incentives to stimulate the market for grid-connected systems. But as the popular "Cash for Clunkers" program shows, incentives can stimulate a market successfully and with little pain.
The Obama Administration and Congress should be praised for their desire to expand clean technology, but many of their efforts have been largely wasted on ineffective government programs. Right now, they have a unique opportunity to apply valuable lessons of the 2009 stimulus bill to a jobs bill. The stimulus bill allocated approximately $100 billion to 40 different cleantech programs, and one year later, it is very clear which funds had the most impact on the sector. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is disturbing that Congress is attempting to throw more money at the least successful programs.
As the dust settles from Massachusetts Senate election, one thing is clear for cleantech: proposals attached to the jobs bill have much better chance of becoming law than those in the climate bill.
Wind projects, along with other renewable energy technologies, have benefitted in a variety of ways from federal incentive programs. The Section 1603 cash grant program, the Department of Energy Section 1705 Loan Guarantee program and the Bonus Depreciation schedule are among the federal programs that are scheduled to expire by the end of 2012. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) are also scheduled to expire for wind projects at the end of 2012. In today's budget-cutting environment, it's possible that none of these incentives will be renewed.
As I write this column, the end of summer is rearing its head. I can't complain though. This summer we got away on two local family trips (neither one farther than 165 miles from our house) – one to the mountainous, high desert region around Bend, Oregon and the other to the majestic coast near Manzanita, Oregon. For both trips, I completely unplugged. No computer, no Internet – just me, my family, and the sounds of laughter, the wind, hawks and heron. And for the first time since my twins were born more than two years ago, I even read a novel cover to cover (a great book btw, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga).