The 30% investment tax credit, the major federal incentive for solar installations, has taken the industry on an emotional roller coaster over the past year. And it looks like the ride may not be over yet.
ITC Renewal Followed by Threat from Trump
It all started when the tax credit was due to expire in 2016. In the months leading up to the deadline, the industry waged an aggressive lobbying effort to get the ITC renewed. In December of 2015 the campaign declared victory when Congress extended the major federal incentive for solar through 2021 for homes and indefinitely for commercial solar.
Then, nearly a year later, when Donald Trump was elected president in November of 2016, the industry started to worry again. Trump is no fan of solar and he promised to remove all federal support for renewable energy.
But after the election, when analysts started to reassure us that, since the ITC had bipartisan support, the federal tax credit for solar was probably safe, the industry breathed a sigh of relief.
With Perry, the Trump Threat is Back
Paula Mints of SPV Market Research was one of those analysts. But with Trump’s likely nomination of Texas Governor Rick Perry as secretary of energy — though he couldn’t remember its name, Perry has (sort of) said that he would close the Department of Energy — now Mints is having second thoughts.
“I initially put the chances of the ITC being altered or reversed virtually at zero. They’re moving up now,” says industry analyst Paula Mints in a video interview from the Renewable Energy World conference in Orlando this month. “Governments change things all the time. You really can’t count [on laws staying the same]…if it’s law today it may not be law tomorrow.”
Her message to all companies in the solar industry:
We are bigger than our installers. Most of our jobs are construction, but we’re bigger than construction jobs. We’re bigger than the indirect jobs. We’re bigger than the guys that make the steel tubes for the installations and the nuts and the bolts for the installations and the trackers and the inverters. We’re actually bigger. We’re as big as all our customers and all of our stakeholders.
So, now is the time to reach out, pull those people into our world and make them our lobbying force. We are an army that’s bigger than we think we are. Let’s not just focus on the solar jobs, on the renewable jobs. They’re a wonderful thing. But we all need to work together, all the renewable technologies and all our customers.
I urge you to watch the video for yourself. Then, ask yourself, what three things can you do to get your customers and community involved in lobbying to protect solar in 2017?
Recruit Your Customers as Lobbyists Starting Now
The things you do don’t have to be hard. For example:
- You can post pieces like this on Facebook or Twitter.
- You can send out a short email to your customers with a link to sign a petition or send an email to their legislators.
- You can publish a post on your company’s blog about the threat to solar and how all solar homeowners can help to keep the industry growing.
Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. Don’t just hope that Trump won’t be so bad for solar. Or, that, as a businessman, Trump may even recognize solar’s massive economic potential on his own and thus convert from a hater to a solar super-fan.
Whatever he does, solar may continue to grow under Trump with good policy at the state level and continued demand from energy users.
Or not. Rick Perry and other FFFs (“friends of fossil fuels”) like Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, or Trump’s choice to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (known best for suing the EPA on climate change), may find a way to slow solar down.
Since Trump is so unpredictable, all bets are off. If you’re in the solar industry, the wisest course may be to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Better safe than sorry.
In some states, the federal tax credit is the only major incentive available for homeowners and businesses to go solar. Maybe in California or New York, solar will do just fine without federal help. But in most of the rest of the country, the ITC can make or break a customer’s decision to get solar.
Whatever you do, don’t think that your business will thrive whatever happens with the ITC. And don’t wait for someone else to step up and protect the ITC either.
Start now by recruiting your own customers as lobbyists for the ITC and other policy on the federal level such as research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that helps make solar more affordable.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group