Oregon Lets Solar Panel Incentives Sunset

Oregon legislators failed to renew solar panel incentives during this year’s legislative session. The Residential Energy Tax Credit, which gave as much as $6,000 for installing solar panels, will expire at the end of the year. The Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association pushed to replace RETC with the Residential Incentive for Solar Energyw—which would have maintained the $6,000 reimbursements through 2019, and then lowered them by $1,000 each year until 2023—but that effort also failed.

PV Magazine, whose contributors cover the photovoltaic industry, blamed the failure on Oregon’s budget deficit and a corruption scandal involving Oregon Department of Energy official Joseph John Colello. Colello, who was indicted for bribery in early June, allegedly took $300,000 from private brokers and allowed them, rather than state employees, to identify businesses qualified for renewable-energy tax credits. RETC was not involved in the scandal, but Governor Kate Brown ultimately pulled her support from RETC and other legislators followed suit.

For comparison, our neighbors up in Washington just extended their incentives until 2030 as part of the Solar Incentives Job bill. But at the federal level, renewable energy incentives, including solar, will expire in 2020 if they are not renewed.

Nationwide, usage incentives for solar energy have come under increasing threat. As more and more solar panels have appeared across the country, utility companies have been lobbying states to do away with net metering, which allows owners of solar panels to sell their excess energy to power companies. 

The New York Times described how lobbyists saw net metering as “unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations” because it allows people with solar panels to avoid contributing towards the broader energy infrastructure.  Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, and Indiana have already done away with net metering, but 40 states, including Oregon, still have it. 

The anti-net-metering bills were based on model legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Since Secretary of Energy Rick Perry commissioned a study on how renewable energy has hurt the fossil fuel industry back in April, similar efforts may be in store at the federal level. These possibilities make it more important that state governments take the lead on promoting renewable energy sources.

By Andy Hahn