Climate

The Surprising Winner Of Congress’ Budget Deal

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There has been a lot of outcry about Congress repealing the oil export ban in the new budget bill, but two alternative forms of energy just got big boosts.

The solar Investment Tax Credit, which has helped propel the solar industry in the United States to record growth over the past few years, has been extended. Wind, too, will get an extension.

In a call with reporters Friday, the head of the Solar Energy Industries Association said that extending the credit would provide certainty for the industry and allow it to grow to 5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply by 2020.

“We expected a significant drop off in 2017 if the ITC was not extended,” the group’s president, Rhone Resch, said. Under the extension, the industry will enjoy a 30 percent tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installation for the next four years, before it steps down to 26 percent for 2020 and 22 percent for 2021. Resch said that costs are expected to drop by 40 percent by then, allowing solar to continue to be a low-cost option for states looking to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan and individuals looking to lower electricity costs.

The group estimates that by the end of 2020, there will be about 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed in the United States, about four times as much as there is now.

“We think that by 2020, we will be injecting about $30 billion a year into the economy,” Resch said. He projected that the industry would more than double the number of jobs, as well, to 440,000.

A win for the solar industry is also a win for environmentalists. At those numbers, solar will offset 100 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year.

The production tax credit for wind was also extended. Both industries praised the credits as providing a more stable business climate.

“With predictable policies now in place, we will continue advancing wind turbine technology, driving down our costs and passing the savings on to American families and businesses in all corners of the country,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said in a statement. “We look forward to building a future with more affordable, reliable, clean wind energy.”

The tax credits were part of the $1.1 trillion budget deal the House and Senate passed Friday, and have been a key legislative priority for both groups for years. During a press conference Friday afternoon, President Obama said the policies would encourage additional private sector investment.