September 6, 2012

New York and California pass solar policies

The federal government may be dragging its feet when it comes to renewing or extending valuable US tax incentives for renewable energy projects, but states continue to adopt innovative policies.

The latest examples comes from New York, where the governor has signed a series of solar tax exemptions, and California, which is preparing to debate legislation that would help support development of community solar projects.

New York State Adopts Solar Tax Exemptions

In New York, Governor Cuomo approved a series of measures that will ease the tax burden for individuals and businesses investing in solar energy.

The new legislation includes:

Bill A 34-B, which provides tax credits for homeowners who invest in solar energy through a lease or power purchase agreement that is at least 10 years long. The credit is available up to 14 years, up to a maximum of $5,000. The law takes effect immediately.

Bill A 10620, which takes effect January 1, 2013, and extends the property tax abatement that is available for solar-generating systems in cities of one million or more people through 2013-2014. 

Bill A 5522-B, which exempts the sale and installation of commercial solar systems from state sales taxes and allows municipalities to grant systems a tax exemption as well. The law takes effect January 1, 2013.

“The bills signed today continue to build momentum for the state’s NY-Sun Initiative by accelerating the installation of solar power while making it a more affordable option for residents and businesses,” says Governor Cuomo. “Together with other NY-Sun incentives, these bills demonstrate the state’s commitment to reducing energy costs, growing our green energy sector, creating jobs, and protecting the environment.”

The goal of the NY-Sun program is to double solar installations in 2012 from the previous year, and to quadruple them in 2013.

“By making it more affordable for businesses and homeowners to install solar systems, these laws are vital to helping New York realize its goal of 45 percent renewable-powered electricity by 2015," says Carrie Cullen Hitt, vice president for State Affairs at Solar Energy Industries Association. 

There are about 7,500 solar PV installations In New York, totally about 121 megawatts (MW), enough to power 20,000 homes.

Some of NY's other policies are Long Island's recently enacted feed-in tariff and grants for large solar systems.

California Community Solar Bill Advances

While it has plenty of way to go before coming law, California Senate's fiscal committee has approved the Wolk Community Shared Solar Bill (SB 843). 

The legislation, introduced by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), aims to support development of community renewable energy systems. It would allow customers of the state's major utilities -- PG&E, SCE and SDG&E – to receive credit on their utility bills for their portion of clean power generated by a given project, much as if those systems were located on site.

The bill now moves to the state assembly.

“This legislation provides access to clean, renewable energy to the three out of four energy customers in California who are currently unable to generate their own on-site power from solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources,” says Wolk. “It gives Californians the opportunity to save on their energy bill, and encourages more investment and creates local jobs in an important sector of our state’s economy, all without spending any state funds.”

An analysis released earlier this year by Vote Solar estimates that the bill would create 12,000 local jobs, and $7.5 billion in economic activity by expanding access to the state's renewable energy market. It is expected to encourage development of 2 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in California, without requiring public funding.

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