U.S. Senate votes to extend solar, R&D tax credits; SEIA applauds move

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After repeated failures to pass similar legislation, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to extend the investment tax credits for solar and other renewable energy sources as well as renew the R&D tax credit for another year, the Associated Press reports. The $17 billion renewable credits package (known as the “Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008,” an amendment to HR 6049) is part of a major tax relief bill approved in a 93-2 vote.

The House of Representative still has to vote on the renewable energy credits’ portion of the bill. Reuters reports that the White House said Tuesday morning that it will now sign the legislation.

The energy legislation extends for eight years, through 2016,
investment tax credits for the solar power industry and for homeowners
who install solar and wind equipment.

After the vote, Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), issued the following statement.

“The Senate
took an important step today to put America back to work with clean,
reliable, and job-creating solar power.  With major instability in our
financial markets, solar energy is a guaranteed way to provide the
stability we need in our economy right now.

“I applaud the Senate for reaching a bipartisan consensus to extend the
solar tax credits, which are critical to the growth of the solar market
in the U.S.  I especially want to thank Majority Leader Reid and
Minority Leader McConnell, Senate Finance Chairman Baucus and ranking
member Grassley, and Senators Cantwell and Ensign for their leadership
in brokering this agreement.

“Extension of the solar investment tax credit has been more than two
years in the making and is a major victory for the solar industry and
for consumers facing higher energy prices in the U.S. Under the Senate
bill, the solar tax credits will be extended for eight years, for both
commercial and residential consumers.  The bill also makes
several major improvements that puts solar energy within reach for all
Americans. This includes a complete elimination of the $2000 cap for
residential systems and an allowance for utilities to make use of the
commercial credit.  Also, the bill allows those taxpayers that trigger
AMT (alternative minimum tax) to take the solar tax credit.

“With a long-term ITC in place, the solar industry will grow
exponentially in the coming years.  A study released by Navigant
Consulting just this week showed that more than 1.2 million
employment opportunties, including 440,000 permanent jobs, and $232
billion in investment would be supported by 2016 with an eight-year
extension of the ITC.  And perhaps most important, the solar industry
will create jobs in all 50 states.  Today, the Senate brought these
promising projections closer to reality.

“All eyes are now on the House that is in a position to swiftly pass
the Senate legislation before members leave next week and get the bill
to the President’s desk.”  

The SEIA said it “expects the Senate will complete votes on other amendments and pass HR 6049 later today (Tuesday).”

— Tom Cheyney

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