Solar Leaders Endorse US Growth Plan

Solar industry leaders are endorsing a legislative proposal that would cut the cost of solar power by half, create 50,000 new American jobs, and save US consumers more than $15 billion on electricity and natural gas bills in the next decade, according to testimony before a congressional subcommittee.

During a Capitol Hill hearing, the chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association spoke in support of S. 727, a bill introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) that would increase the existing investment tax credit for solar from 10% to 30% over five years. Christopher O’Brien, also a vice-president for strategy and government relations at Sharp Electronics’ Solar Systems Division, identified this potential provision as the most important solar legislation Congress could enact in the energy bill. “Historically, solar prices have come down 20 percent for each doubling of installed capacity,” said O’Brien, appearing before the House Ways and Means Select Revenue Subcommittee. “A usable investment tax credit would jumpstart the market by bringing already-declining solar costs over the tipping point in many areas. If we seek to achieve significant near-term deployment and lower solar costs, the most important policy change that Congress could enact would be an expansion of the ITC.” Homeowners and businesses alike would be eligible for the credit, according to O’Brien. The solar industry has not had a tax credit for residential customers in 20 years. O’Brien’s testimony came as the Ways and Means Subcommittee evaluated a clause in Section 45 of the Internal Revenue Code which allows owners of renewable electric generation facilities to claim a tax credit for electricity production. SEIA testified that the production tax credit, as currently written, holds no value for either distributed (retail) or central station (wholesale) solar power. For different reasons, O’Brien said, no solar company or customer can benefit from the Section 45 PTC. “We have an opportunity to shift a tax policy that does not work into one that does,” said O’Brien. “From Maine to Nevada, we could use solar power to meet some of our most pressing energy concerns – from peak demand reduction, to environmental benefits, to the avoidance of transmission and distribution upgrades. Expanding the ITC would give the solar industry a credit of approximately the same value as that currently enjoyed by other renewables through the PTC, and begin to bring the booming solar market back to the United States.”
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