Solar industry to play hardball in D.C. to get tax credit

Frustrated that the renewable-energy tax credit has apparently become a political football, the solar industry is quickly assembling a broader and firmer lobbying effort.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

NEW YORK--The solar industry's trade group is borrowing political tactics from the oil and gas industry to try to extend a tax credit that it considers vital to continued growth of renewable energy.

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), said Wednesday that his group has created a lobbying coalition of utilities, homebuilders, and environmentalists to pressure Congress to pass a law to extend--and improve --an existing tax credit for renewable energy investments.

The group has also formed a political action committee to ensure that Congress members who voted against the renewable energy tax credit are not re-elected, he said.

"We talk about the green revolution...It's not a revolution until some blood gets spilled," said Resch, who spoke at the Piper Jaffray Clean Technology and Renewables Conference here Wednesday.

Resch added that the investment tax credit has become a political football. "There's going to be a lot less grand-standing in the next couple of weeks," he said.

He noted that a tax-credit bill needs to be passed by the end of the first quarter.

An existing federal tax credit for renewable energy projects is set to expire at the end of 2008. An extension of the tax credit was narrowly defeated at the end of last year during the creation of the 2007 Energy Act, and an economic stimulus plan was passed without the extension earlier this month.

Resch said that the solar industry is abandoning its strategy of pushing for a repeal of a tax break for oil and gas manufacturers in order to pay for the solar tax credit. The solar industry will favor a broader lobbying push instead.

The industry is seeking an eight-year extension of the existing investment tax credit and a more generous credit, which is now 30 percent of the total cost of commercial renewable-energy projects.

Resch said that the industry has already started to see "significant sales drop-off" because of the uncertainty surrounding the investment tax credit, particularly for large-scale solar projects.

He said he's optimistic about the passage of a law this year.

Next year is shaping up to be much more supportive for the renewable-energy industry because all three top presidential candidates are very strong on addressing climate change, Resch said.