Oregon lawmakers nix rooftop solar tax credits
- Oregon lawmakers failed to include an extension of the state's Residential Energy Tax Credit in a budget sent to the full legislature on Wednesday, the Portland Business Journal reports. The tax credits are slated to phase out at the end of the year.
- Solar companies fought for the extension, saying allowing the credit to expire could bruise the industry workforce. The Oregon solar industry reportedly grew 50% in the past year to total roughly 4,500 workers.
- But lawmakers said the tight state budget left little room for prioritizing rooftop solar and that too little time remains to evaluate a new program. The legislative session is due to end next week.
Despite heavy lobbying from solar interests and the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association, lawmakers said challenges with the state budget prevented them from inserting the extension into the budget bill.
"This is a responsible set of priorities given the very, very tight budget environment,” said Sen. Mark Hass, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Tax Credits at the hearing Wednesday, according to the news outlet.
The state is currently facing a $1.7 billion budget shortfall.
Hass said he would be willing to sponsor a solar bill next year and OSEIA's Executive Director Jeff Bissonette also plans to redouble efforts to push a solar incentive through the February 2018 session.
Gov. Kate Brown's proposed budget that came out at the end of last year left out funding for the RETC extension. While the governor says she supports renewable energy, an energy incentive bribery scandal at state agency Business Oregon left Brown skeptical of authorizing more incentives.
Solar advocates, however, say the RETC program was never the source of those issues and does not deserve elimination.
It's unclear what the lack of an incentive will do to the state's fledgling solar industry. Solar interests fear that failure to extend the credit, which allowed up to $6,000 in tax savings for residential systems, will hurt the industry and stymie job creation. The tax credit also covered an array of other energy saving measures, including energy efficiency efforts, but residential solar composed the biggest part.
Other states have faced similar issues. Utah, for instance, boasted hefty solar credits and rebates to entice customers to install residential systems. But the governor signed off on a bill to phase out the credit earlier this year.
- Portland Business Journal Oregon lawmakers kill rooftop solar incentive
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