By Josh O’Gorman | Vermont Press Bureau | December 19, 2015

MONTPELIER — Climate advocates and members of the renewable energy industry are celebrating a move by Congress to renew tax credits for wind and solar projects.

Congress reached an agreement this week for a five-year extension of tax credits for the installation of solar projects and the operation of wind projects, allowing the credits to continue until 2022.

“This a win for Vermont’s economy, and the nation’s and world’s environment,” said Ben Walsh, climate and energy program director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “You’re talking about hundreds more jobs in Vermont than we would otherwise have, and nationwide, gigawatts of energy coming online.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents more than 1,000 renewable energy companies nationwide, the extension will result in more than $133 billion in new, private-sector investment and will triple the nation’s solar power output to 100 gigawatts — enough to power 20 million homes — by the year 2020.

The tax credits differ depending upon the type of renewable energy project. For solar, customers receive a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of installation. For wind, the customer will receive a 2.3-cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated in the first 10 years of the project.

While the tax credits were set to expire in about a year — Jan. 1, 2017 — Andrew Savage, chief strategy officer for AllEarth Renewables, said the clock was running out for customers looking to make decisions regarding their energy needs.

“Businesses are making growth decisions now for 2017, so it’s important to have the predictability that will allow businesses to continue to grow, hire and invest locally,” Savage said. “Solar, by its nature, is an up-front capital investment, and this tax credit helps bring down the cost of investment.”

Savage also discussed what the impact would have been to renewable energy projects if the tax credits had not been renewed.

“We definitely would have seen a slowing down and scaling back of the industry, in Vermont and nationally,” Savage said. “That would have meant fewer businesses going solar, fewer homes going solar and fewer jobs in solar.”

Duane Peterson, co-president of SunCommon, a Waterbury-based solar installer, celebrated the action by Congress.

“This is great news for Vermonters looking to repower our state with clean energy,” Peterson said. “Congress knows that solar energy protects our climate, creates good-paying jobs and saves homeowners money on their utility bills. Supporting solar is good for America and good for Vermont.”

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