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Editorial: Congress should extend the tax credit for solar energy installations

Solar energy is becoming increasingly important as a way for homeowners and businesses to lower their electricity costs while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

An essential element in the growth of this renewable energy source is a federal tax credit that is due to run out. It may be too much to ask, given the current political atmosphere, but Congress should not hesitate to extend the credit.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer said he will push for the extension and for a change in the regulations that would allow the solar tax credit to mimic the wind energy tax credit, which is implemented soon after work begins on a project. The solar credit doesn’t kick in until the project is completed. The change is especially important for businesses and large-scale solar developers, which make major investments in solar, but do not benefit from the tax credit until the systems are placed in service.

The urgency is real. The 30 percent federal solar investment tax credit is set to expire for residential projects in 2016 and to fall to 10 percent for commercial projects.

This region, which has placed a major bet on electricity generated from solar panels, has a vested interest in seeing that doesn’t happen.

SolarCity, the $900 million solar-panel factory being built in South Buffalo, is expected to create thousands of jobs. The factory is expected to reach full production in 2017.

In related news, Solar is having a great year, except on Wall Street.

Local companies that are gaining a foothold in the business of installing solar panels on homes also have much invested in an extension of the tax credit. In a recent article by News business reporter Stephen T. Watson, William Klink, founder of Freedom Solar, which is based in Orchard Park and installs solar systems across New York and New England, said he has seen a significant rise in business since starting three years ago. Solar Liberty, an Amherst-based installer of solar systems, has also seen an uptick.

As the article stated, solar installations are surging nationally and across New York — although the numbers are still larger downstate, where higher energy costs encourage people to seek cheaper alternatives.

President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan sets lofty goals for drastically reducing pollution from power generation, especially coal-fired plants. Those goals will be achieved more easily by encouraging solar, and that means extending the tax credit.

Renewable energy options are still in the early stages of adoption, and therefore still require subsidies. But the money paid out today will pay off for decades in the form of cleaner air and less carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere.

This article was from The Buffalo News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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