The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today reported that both wind and solar energy enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2008. However both industry trade groups say the renewable energy market could fall in 2009 if Congress and the incoming administration do not take swift action to help make renewable energy tax incentives work in the recession.
SEIA head Rhone Resch and AWEA chief Denise Bode both cited the need to make the investment tax credit and the production tax credit refundable to preserve their effectiveness in the current difficult economy and keep up the strong growth of both industries.
Barack Obama announced his plan to double renewable energy production across the United States over the next three years on Thursday . Now the renewable energy groups are saying tax incentives must be made refundable to turn that target into a reality.
On October 3, 2008, Congress passed an extension of the two tax credits after much lobbying from the renewable energy industry groups and environmental groups across the country. But the current economic conditions reduce the effectiveness of the tax credits since most companies and individual tax filers expect lower tax liabilities.
Making renewable tax credits refundable, like those for biodiesel and other alternative transportation fuels, is key to increasing renewable energy growth in 2009 and 2010.
Resch, a registered lobbyist for clean energy development and climate change issues says,”Congress must use the stimulus bill to move us away from our backwards-looking, recession-burdened economy and toward a new era of recovery and prosperity with solar and wind leading the way.”
“Our industries have become powerful economic engines in the U.S., each year creating tens of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in economic investment. And we have the potential to put many thousands more Americans back to work,” he said. “But due to the recession, projects are now being put on hold, factories are closing and workers face potential layoffs unless Congress refines the tax credits now so they work as originally intended.”
In 2007 and 2008, more than 50 wind energy manufacturing facilities were opened, expanded or announced in the United States, adding 14,000 employees. More than half of those jobs were added in 2008, even as the overall U.S. economy was faltering.
The solar energy industry employs more than 80,000 people in the U.S. and created more than 15,000 jobs in the last two years. According to a report last year by Navigant Consulting, the solar energy sector alone will create 440,000 permanent jobs and spur $325 billion in private investment by 2016 with the investment tax credit in place.
“By working together to repair this critical policy, we can put Americans back to work, help achieve national energy security and start down a path that will make America a leader in renewable energy manufacturing and development,” said Bode.
AWEA estimates that last year the wind power industry installed a record 7,500 megawatts of capacity in the U.S., bringing total wind capacity in the U.S. to about 24,000 megawatts. For the first time, the United States now leads the world in installed wind power generating capacity.
The solar industry is estimated to have nearly doubled growth of solar photovoltaic installations in 2008. The California Solar Initiative reported the growth of photovoltaic installations doubled in 2008 from 2007.
Image is of a 7.2 kW Solar Power system in Bayview, WI USA (South of Milwaukee, WI) by mjmonty