While Senator Bernie Sander’s old-fashioned filibuster has become a trending topic on twitter and is being live-streamed, our Senator Bob Menendez announced his support for the tax cut deal. I was intrigued by one of the reasons Menendez gave:
It also has several provisions I championed, including tax relief for transit riders and to spur the use of solar energy.
Compared to the tax cuts for the rich and payroll tax issues, the solar energy energy bit is minor, but a description is in The Solar Home & Business Journal:
A bill that embodies the controversial tax-cut deal negotiated by President Obama’s administration and Republican congressional leaders includes an extension of a Treasury Department grant program for solar energy installations…
The Treasury grant program has approved nearly 1,500 awards totaling more than $5.5 billion in payments, mostly for wind and solar electricity projects.
So far, the largest awards have been for wind projects, ranging up to about $218 million for a project in the state of Washington. Solar electricity projects have received the highest number of awards, with almost 1,200. Solar electricity awards have ranged from a few thousand dollars to about $62 million for a Florida Power & Light Co. project.
Basically, developers can get “cash back” instead of a 30% tax credit that often has little value, but if they didn’t start construction by the end of the month they’d have been out of luck. The tendency to offer subsidies and then let expire, then bring them back, then expire, has really hurt the wind industry over the years. Indeed, solar energy stock prices are soaring, showing that the uncertainty was hurting them.
Hopefully besides encouraging solar energy, these grants will also encourage construction projects to start up now while people really need the jobs.