Updates from the Committee on Energy

New Solar Tax Incentives Will Expand Market for Solar Power in New York
Assembly Energy Committee Chair says long term solar commitment still needed to spark industry investment in state
August 17, 2012

Albany, NY – Assembly Energy Committee Chair Kevin Cahill (D- Ulster, Dutchess) called the solar tax incentive package signed by the Governor a positive step that will help expand the market for renewable energy systems in New York. The Assemblymember said the Governor and Legislature still need to act on legislation (A.9149-A/Englebright), also known as the Solar Jobs Act, to establish a clear long term solar mandate to attract industry investment in the State.

“Tax incentives, rebates and other benefits like net metering are important tools that encourage households and commercial entities to make use of renewable energy technology,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Solar is going to play a critical role in our energy future and New York has the potential to be a leader in the industry’s evolution, but we are running the risk of being left behind in the absence of a clear long term plan like the one proposed in Solar Jobs Act.”

The legislation, which has been passed by the Assembly Energy Committee, would mandate that 3,000 megawatts of New York State’s power supply be derived from solar energy by 2021. The bill compliments Governor Cuomo’s plans and provides the Public Service Commission (PSC), utilities and state energy authorities flexibility in how to meet their solar targets and includes a mechanism to protect consumers by ensuring that the annual cost of the program never exceeds 1.5% of electricity sales. The initiative, with nearly 80 co-sponsors, has received strong bipartisan backing in the Assembly and is supported by a diverse coalition of labor, business and environmental organizations.

“The key to building a robust solar industry in New York is a stable and long-term plan that businesses can use as the basis for their investment decisions. By working together to pass the Solar Jobs Act we can solidify and expand our commitment to solar by establishing, in law, a goal of 3,000 mega-watts of new clean energy by 2021. That is exactly the type of message the Legislature and the Governor need to send in order to maximize private sector investment in New York,” said Assemblymember Cahill.

The bills signed into law today include a measure introduced by Chairman Cahill (A.34-B) that will increase the installation of solar photovoltaic equipment by allowing residents that lease and enter into solar power purchase agreements to claim a personal income tax credit of up to $5,000.

“The biggest barrier to solar is sticker shock. Consumers clearly understand and want to take advantage of the economic and environmental benefits solar power provides. We have seen it in the states throughout the Northeast that have embraced innovative financing strategies designed to eliminate concerns about the upfront costs,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Solar leasing and on-bill financing agreements are the future of the installation industry. They make it easier for people to make common sense investments that will reduce their monthly bills from day one.”

Taxpayers who enter into a lease or power purchase agreement of at least ten years will now qualify for the tax credit, which was previously only available to taxpayers that purchased solar equipment. The benefit would be spread out over a number of years and the agreements are easily transferable.

“Not only will this bill help save money for taxpayers, but it will reduce the stress on our electric grid, which benefits all utility customers,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “By expanding the use of solar technology, we are curtailing our reliance on dirty, high-emission fossil fuels and counteracting the negative impacts of greenhouse gas pollution.”

The Governor also signed legislation (A.5522-B/Englebright) that will make solar energy a more viable option for commercial consumers. The bill will eliminate all state sales taxes on the purchase and installation of solar equipment for businesses, while giving cities, counties and school districts the option of establishing similar exemptions.

“Utilizing the tax code to encourage increased utilization of renewable technology will bring a boost to our economy and lead to the creation of more jobs as the demand for solar grows,” said Assemblymember Cahill.