- The tremendous success of the Investment Tax Credit for solar energy projects exemplifies the importance of stable policy for the private sector and reveals a high return on public investment in solar energy in terms of economic benefits, domestic job creation, energy security and lower costs for consumers.
- In 2012, the U.S. solar industry installed more than 3,300 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity - an increase of 76% over 2011 - and currently employs over 119,000 American workers. The average cost of a completed PV system dropped by 24 percent over the past year, and costs continue to fall.
- In the face of a sluggish economy, the ITC provides market certainty for industry to continue making long-term investments in solar energy projects, U.S. manufacturing facilities and supply chain expansion.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58) created a new 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for commercial and residential solar energy systems that applied from Jan. 1, 2006 through Dec. 31, 2007. The ITC was extended for one additional year in December 2006 by the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-432). In its first year of implementation, the ITC spurred unprecedented growth in the U.S. solar industry and led to the doubling of installed solar electric capacity by 2007. By then, global investment in clean energy topped $100 billion, with solar energy leading all other clean energy technologies in venture capital and private equity investment.
In 2008, Congress passed legislation on a bipartisan basis that provided an eight-year extension of the commercial and residential solar ITC. It also removed a $2,000 monetary cap on the total credit that could be claimed by a homeowner installing a rooftop residential solar electric system. The bill also permitted utilities to use the credit, making solar energy more affordable for ratepayers.
The ITC Fuels Dramatic Growth in Solar Installations
The U.S. now has over 7,700 MW of installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.2 million American households.
The industry installed more than 3,300 MW in 2012. The industry had a record quarter in Q4 2012, installing more than 1,300 MW of solar PV capacity.
The Growing Solar Workforce and Supply Chain
The solar industry has grown from 15,000 employees in 2005 to more than 119,000 today. They work at more than 6,100 companies, the vast majority being small businesses, in all 50 states. Additional job growth is expected as the industry continues to expand in the future. The ITC has a positive ripple effect to reach beyond project development to enable growth and maturation of the broader solar supply chain – including manufacturers, “mom and pop” retail stores, plumbers, electricians, distributors and salesmen in small towns and large cities across the country. As U.S. manufacturers compete with companies around the globe, the ITC is a critical policy mechanism to ensure robust demand for solar energy components in the U.S. market.
The Falling Cost of Solar for Consumers
Significant cost reductions occurred in just the last three years with the scaling up of demand and manufacturing capacity. In 2009, the average installed cost was approximately $7.50 per watt. In 2011, the overall average installed cost was $4.75 per watt. The downward trend in cost continued for an average installed cost of $3.63 per watt in 2012.
The existence of the ITC through 2016 provides market certainty for companies to develop long-term investments in manufacturing capacity that drive competition and technological innovation, which, in turn, lowers costs for consumers.
An Engine for U.S. Job Creation and Growth
Due in large part to the availability of a multi-year ITC, the solar industry grew by 76 percent in 2012 over 2011, making it the fastest growing energy source in the U.S. economy. Like all energy industries in the U.S. economy, stable federal policy for the solar industry allows small and large businesses to make investment and hiring decisions with confidence. This certainty ensures a greater return for taxpayers, as supply chain partners recognize long-term market opportunities and scale up manufacturing capacity. Growth in the competitive solar industry continues to drive innovation and cost reductions that lead to lower prices for consumers.