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Abigail Ross Hopper: Why America's Top Businesses Are Also Leading on Solar Energy

Thursday, Oct 17 2019

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While politicians argue over what to do about climate change, top companies are taking action. Some of the largest companies in the United States — including prominent worldwide brands like Apple, Amazon, and Target — are increasingly turning to solar energy to power their businesses.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen a surge in corporate solar adoption. In 2018, off-site corporate solar procurement reached record levels, and more than half of all corporate solar capacity was installed over the past three years.

Despite this growth, challenges remain. Solar represents only about 2.3 percent of all electricity generation in the United States. The biggest hurdle we face is the impending phase down of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and we are asking Congress to extend it this year.

Extending the ITC would be a welcome policy action for Americans in both parties, who by a wide margin believe we need to take steps to tackle climate change, and who believe adopting more solar can help. Corporate America is a central part of the equation. Last year, commercial and industrial establishments consumed 61% of the nation’s electricity last year, emitting 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions.

The ITC rewards businesses and homeowners who install solar energy, helping to fuel the impressive growth we’ve seen over the last decade. Passed by Congress in 2005, the ITC provides market certainty for companies wanting to develop long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation, which in turn lowers energy costs for consumers.

There are now more than 35,000 commercial solar installations across the United States, more than 10 times what existed a decade ago. These installations generate 10.7 million megawatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power 1.4 million homes. Since the ITC was passed, solar deployment has increased by more than 10,000%, created hundreds of thousands of jobs and added more than $140 billion into the economy along the way.

And we know the ITC will continue to work. Extending the ITC another 10 years would add an additional $87 billion to our economy and 82 gigawatts of solar by 2030. That’s more solar than we have installed today.

Some in Congress want the ITC to expire, effectively raising taxes on businesses that install solar and stifling market opportunities for the 10,000 companies that work in the solar industry.

There are many reasons behind the corporate solar installation surge. Namely, top companies are going solar because it’s a smart business practice that’s going to help their bottom line. More flexible financing options and contracts that help companies meet their aggressive climate goals are helping too.

Like the businesses that are choosing solar because it makes economic sense, extending the ITC should also be common sense. As Congress determines a long-term plan for slowing the effects of climate change, in the interim, we should be looking to proven tax policies like the ITC to help develop hundreds of gigawatts of clean solar energy.

Now is not the time to turn our backs on the businesses that are choosing solar, or on the most successful federal policy we have to ensure emission reductions. We cannot afford to stop our progress now — thousands of corporations and solar businesses are counting on us, as well as the hundreds of millions of Americans concerned with the health of our planet.  

On November 7, 2019 SEIA will do a deeper dive into the motivations behind corporate solar adoption at the Solar Goes Corporate event in Washington, DC. Join us as we discuss innovation stories, how to maximize value of a solar installation while minimizing risks, and lessons learned from the real estate community. View the agenda.