LETTER: Congress shouldsupport solar tax credit

To the editor:

Earlier this year, North Carolina became just the fourth state in the nation to top 1,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity, trailing only California, Arizona and New Jersey as America’s solar leaders. But despite the state’s rapid progress, the looming expiration of the federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy is creating angst in the marketplace, threatening to eliminate good-paying jobs statewide.

It’s no coincidence that North Carolina is ranked No. 1 in the entire South in installed solar capacity. Effective public policies, like the state’s investment tax credit, renewable energy portfolio standards and the federal ITC, are paying huge dividends for the state’s economy, creating more than 5,000 new jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic activity.

Powered by a booming utility-scale market, North Carolina added 58 MW of new solar capacity in the first quarter of this year, bringing its statewide total to 1,011 MW — enough to power nearly 110,000 homes. Most impressively, the 58 MW added represents a robust 66 percent increase over the same quarter last year.

A lot of this economic activity is a direct result of the federal investment tax credit. Since it was enacted in 2006, 150,000 new solar jobs have been added across America, enough new solar has come online to power 4 million homes and more than $66 billion has been invested in new solar installations. A third of all new electricity added to the U.S. grid last year came from solar.

As it stands now, the 30-percent federal ITC will expire at the end of 2016, threatening to derail the rapid progress solar energy is making across North Carolina. By contrast, competing energy sources, such as fossil fuels, have had preferential treatment in the U.S. tax code for up to 100 years, while solar has had the federal ITC as an incentive for private investment for less than 10.

As an industry, we’re strongly urging North Carolina’s Congressional delegation to support extending the ITC for at least five years. By then, many analysts are predicting, solar will reach grid parity in most electricity markets, helping to create a level playing field among energy producers, which will benefit consumers, the U.S. economy and our environment. That’s a win-win in anyone’s book.

Rhone Resch

president and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association