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Higgins: Solar tax credit a big win for Western New York


Mon, Dec 21st 2015 05:20 pm

Says consumers, job seekers, WNY economy will benefit from extension of federal program

Standing outside of SolarCity's new solar panel manufacturing site currently under construction in Buffalo, Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, discussed the recently approved extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the impact it will have on Western New York.

"The solar tax credit builds confidence into the market to encourage consumers, both homeowners and commercial developers, to choose solar, and with that increase in demand comes growth in the industry and the jobs that support it," he said.

On Dec. 18, Congress approved and President Obama signed federal budget legislation that will extend the ITC previously set to expire in 2016. The law provides for a 30 percent credit on residential and commercial solar systems through 2019, a 26 percent credit in 2020, 22 percent for 2021, followed by a 10 percent credit thereafter. New to the solar tax credit program is a "commence construction" provision that makes a project eligible before it is placed in service.

The ITC was first implemented in 2006 and is credited with encouraging the private investment that has made solar the fastest growing energy source in the U.S., at a growth rate of 73 percent annually.

Solar employment is growing at a rate 20 times higher than the overall economy. Today, more than 8,000 U.S. solar companies support over 200,000 U.S. jobs. With the ITC extension, that number is expected to more than double to more than 420,000 workers by 2020.

Construction on the SolarCity plant is currently underway along the Buffalo River. The facility will be the largest solar panel manufacturing site in the Western Hemisphere. SolarCity has committed to creating more than 1,400 jobs in Western New York and 5,000 jobs statewide over the next 10 years.

Higgins is a strong advocate for initiatives supporting the expansion and use of solar power. His efforts were supported by both the solar industry and the Sierra Club. He led on a coalition of over 90 members urging extension of renewable energy tax credits as well as a separate bipartisan effort specifically addressing the ITC extension. In October, he joined Rep. Richard Hanna to introduce legislation aimed at demonstrating the benefits of net metering. In April, he spoke again on the House Floor in favor of the Solar Ready Vets Program to provide veterans with job training and opportunities in the solar industry.

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