Federal Bill Would Give Solar, Fuel Cells a Boost

As more U.S. consumers turn to solar power during the current energy crisis, U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) introduced legislation that would affirm the right of consumers to install solar systems on their roofs, while making it cheaper for prospective buyers to go solar.

The “Empowering America Act of 2006” would extend federal solar investment tax credits for homeowners and business through 2015, and make modifications similar to those contained in S. 2677 and H.R. 5206, the “Securing America’s Energy Independence Act.” The popular solar tax credits are currently set to expire next year. The SAEI Act was introduced earlier this summer and has gained a total of 75 House and 15 Senate cosponsors to date. “I have introduced this bill and installed solar panels on my own home because I believe alternative energy sources such as solar are absolutely critical for the future of our economy and national security,” said Rep. Cardoza. “These incentives would help make solar energy more affordable for millions of Americans. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, the growing solar technology industry holds great promise for contributing to economic growth.” The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) praised Rep. Cardoza for introducing a bill that addresses the solar industry’s top legislative priority — the extension of the federal investment tax credits. “This is the most comprehensive solar legislation introduced in a decade,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President. “It will galvanize solar manufacturing in this country, create 45,000 new solar industry jobs, and provide more U.S. taxpayers with relief from high energy bills.” Another key component of the Cardoza bill would protect solar consumers from restrictive covenants that block the siting of solar systems on a roof — similar to the current legislative treatment of satellite dishes. The bill would also help shield prospective system buyers from exorbitant permitting and licensing fees. “Every American should have the right to own a solar energy system,” said SEIA’s Resch. “Consumers who take a personal step to increase our energy independence and reduce pollution should have the strength of the law behind them. This bill would truly empower more Americans to make the switch to clean, renewable solar energy.” The bill is expected to contain the following provisions: Residential Solar Tax Credit: Extends a 30-percent tax credit, created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, for the purchase of residential solar water heating, photovoltaic equipment, and fuel cell property. Allows the ITC [Investment Tax Credit] to be taken against the alternative minimum tax. Changes the maximum credit to $4,000 for each kilowatt of capacity for solar equipment and $1,000 for each kilowatt of capacity for fuel cells. Expires after December 31, 2015. Business Solar Tax Credit and Fuel Cell Tax Credit: Extends a 30-percent business credit, established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, for the purchase of fuel cell power plants, solar energy property, and fiber-optic property used to illuminate the inside of a structure. Allows the ITC to be taken against the alternative minimum tax. Expires after December 31, 2015. Solar Siting Rights: Instructs the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to issue regulations within 180 days of the law’s enactment that 1) prohibit any private covenant, contract provision, lease provision, homeowners’ association rule or bylaw, or similar restriction that impairs homeowners’ ability to install and use a solar energy system and 2) expedite the approval, where such approval is required, of applications to install systems. Cap on Permitting and Licensing Fees: Requires that recipients of community development block grants limit permitting and licensing fee costs to $500 or less for residential installations, and 1% of total cost for commercial installations.
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