Tag Archives: Solar Incentives

2020 Solar Trends: Opportunity Zones

Opportunity zones are certified low-income areas into which investors can deploy capital for value-adding projects, in exchange for federal capital gains tax and other advantages. 


In general, capital gains are incurred when selling an appreciated asset such as real estate or stocks.  The appreciated gain is taxed at a special rate, which is typically 15% to 20%.


By investing in opportunity zones an investor’s capital gains rate can be reduced by 50% to 75% depending on how long the investment is held.  


Opportunity zone funds can be used for solar, microgrids, electric vehicle charging stations, and energy storage.


Another benefit, Investors will not be taxed on any capital gains incurred from a project if they hold that property or asset for a decade or more.


There are 8,760 opportunity zones in all 50 states.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Xcel Solar Rewards Program

Xcel’s Solar*Rewards® program provides a financial incentive for residents, businesses and public entities to install solar power. Annual payments are made to the owner of the solar system in exchange for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) produced by solar.  This is known as a performance-based incentive or PBI.


Xcel customers also qualify for Net Metering up to 1 megawatt AC (or enough power for roughly 200 homes).  If you generate more than you need, the extra energy is added to the grid, and any excess energy will be credited to your bill. 

Additionally, there’s a specific sub-program for under-resourced communities and income-qualified multi-family.


It is important to note that small commercial incentives levels are decreasing.


Also, large projects qualify for a separate bill-credit mechanism called capacity credit program or ELPC which was strengthened in 2019.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Minneapolis Green Cost Share Program

The City of Minneapolis is offering an incentive to install solar: the Green Cost Share Program. Qualifying projects will be compensated based on the solar array’s projected first year kilowatt hour production, up to $50,000.  Funding ranges from $.20 to $.40.


Priority will be given to buildings in designated Green Zones and to buildings that are participating in the 4D Affordable Housing Program.


Worth noting, projects receiving funding will require prevailing wage.

 

2020 Solar Trends: ITC Update!

The investment tax credit, also known as the federal solar tax credit, allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost to install solar from your federal taxes. 


The residential and commercial solar ITC has helped the U.S. solar industry grow by more than 10,000% percent since it was implemented in 2006, with an average annual growth of 50% over the last decade alone.

On December 17th, 2019, we learned that the federal tax extenders bill would not include an extension of the ITC, despite solar’s bi-partisan popularity.

Without the extension, the credit will phase down as outlined in congress’ 2015 compromise:

30% = 2019
26% = 2020
22% = 2021
10% thereafter, for Commercial projects only

Your solar project must be energized to qualify for that year’s tax credit rate.


There are safe harbor provisions that allow projects to start in a given calendar year and still qualify for that year’s rate, typically by spending at least 5% of the projects cost and starting construction activities.

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About the Solar Investment Tax Credit

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the most popular and successful federal policy mechanisms ever enacted to support renewable energy in the US. In the 14 years since its enactment, there has been 59% compound annual solar growth nationwide. With the step-down of the tax credit beginning at the end of 2019, potential solar customers have limited time left to take full advantage of its benefits. 

 

What is the ITC?

The ITC is a tax credit can be claimed on federal corporate income taxes for 30 percent of the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system that is placed in service during that year. The tax credit is claimed against the tax liability of residential and commercial investors in solar energy property. This credit is used when homeowners purchase solar systems outright and have them installed on their homes or when businesses install, develop and/or finance solar projects.

 

History and Future of the ITC

The ITC was originally established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was set to expire at the end of 2007. Due to the success of the program Congress has extended its expiration date multiple times, most recently in 2015. That extension set up the tax credit to step down to 26 percent for projects that begin construction in 2020 and 22 percent for projects that begin in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent.  


 


Impact of the ITC Step-Down

According to Energy Information Administration data in 2015 (when the ITC was scheduled to expire at the end of the next year), if the 30% credit was not extended, rooftop solar photovoltaic installations would plunge 94% in 2017 and utility-scale projects would decline 100%, with neither recovering anywhere close to today’s levels even a decade from now.  Bloomberg predicted solar installations would drop by two-thirds in 2017, which the Solar Energy Industries Association estimated would cost America 100,000 jobs.

The economic projections aren’t as grim this time around. A study from Bloomberg estimates that the loss of the tax credit will cause solar capacity to only quadruple, instead of quintuple, by 2022, which is still a substantial increase. A Wall Street Journal analysis reinforces this assessment. 

So, what has changed over the last few years to mitigate the effect of ITC’s decline? For starters, this stepdown is less severe than the proposed 2015 iteration, which called for a straight drop from 30 to 10 percent. The more gradual step-down, combined with recent legislation that allows homeowners to claim their tax credit as soon as the construction of the system begins (as opposed to when the system is operational), will allow significantly more installs to qualify for a higher credit. Additionally, solar installation prices have continued their sharp decline. The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% since 2010, and prices as of Q4 2018 are at or near their lowest historical level across all market segments.

The solar industry will still prosper without the ITC. However, the planned growth will not be as dynamic. Customers should be aware of the impending changes and plan accordingly, but can still be optimistic about sustained industry growth.

 

 

Sources

SEIA

Bloomberg

Wall Street Journal

Energy.Gov

 

 

2019 Brings Changes to Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Program

Xcel Energy’s popular Solar*Rewards incentive program has undergone a few key changes for 2019. These changes are highlighted by adjusted incentive rates, additional consumer protection provisions, and a new low-income branch of the program.  These changes come only six months after the Minnesota Legislature passed HF 3232, which raised the capacity size limit for Solar*Rewards projects from 20kW to 40kW. You can read about that change here.


Incentive Rate Changes


In 2018 both commercial and residential program participants received $.08 for every kilowatt hour of electricity they produced.  This year, the incentive rates have dropped to $.06 per kWh for commercial participants and $.07 per kWh for residential participants.  While these reduced rates will lower the financial benefit program participants receive, they will allow the total incentive budget to be split among more projects.

 


Consumer Protection Provisions


The Solar*Rewards program now requires every installer submitting a residential application to be a licensed Minnesota Residential Building Contractor.  This aims to help protect customers by ensuring that only qualified installers are using the program.  


The new MN Contractor Recovery Fund was also created with customers in mind. The fund compensates owners or lessees of residential property in Minnesota who have suffered actual and direct out-of-pocket loss due to a licensed contractor’s fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, or failure of performance.


Income Qualified Incentives


This year Xcel Energy has added Income Qualified Incentives into the Solar*Rewards program.  These incentives are only available to customers that meet certain income guidelines and have separate rates for residential, non-profit & multi-family, and solar garden customers.

 


Unlike the traditional Solar*Rewards incentives, the Income Qualified Incentives are structured as an upfront per-watt rebate combined with a production incentive. Xcel has set aside between 10 and 20 percent of the total incentive pool specifically for these projects. With the current budget at just over $9,000,000, at least $900,000 will be set aside for Income Qualified Incentives.