Brief

Congressional lawmakers launch query into solar tax credits

Dive Brief:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate have launched a probe into tax incentives paid to solar companies, and have sent a series of questions to seven solar companies both domestically and foreign-owned.
  • On the list is SolarCIty, the country's largest installer, and Sunrun and Sungevity. SunEdison, Abengoa SA, NextEra Energy and NRG Energy also received letters.
  • Late last year Congress approved an extension of the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar, slowly ramping down through 2024, though the time frame is different for commercial and residential systems.

Dive Insight:

More than a half dozen solar companies have received letters from the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, as part of an query into whether some big names in the industry improperly took advantage of the federal tax credits.

A spokesman for SolarCity confirmed to the WSJ that it had received lawmakers' queries, and said its “answers to the questions posed are fairly straightforward, and we will provide them as requested.”

Solar advocates last year pressed for the extension of the tax credit, maintaining it was necessary to level the playing field against more established technologies, and to help push forward with greenhouse gas reduction goals. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, extending the ITC "will lead to sustained growth in the U.S. solar industry."

The group expects that by 2020, annual solar deployments will top 20 GW in an industry that will employ more than 420,000 workers.

Similar to the solar credit, a production tax credit wind projects has been a major driver of the resource's development. Lawmakers extended the credit for wind power through 2020, but with a stepped-down phase-out, beginning with a 20% reduction in the incentive in 2017.

Earlier this year, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) launched a probe into the tax credits, saying he was concerned the federal government did not have sufficient oversight over the program. The letters sent to solar companies this week expands on that investigation.

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables
Top image credit: Getty Images