By Veronica Pollán, Maple Sweet Real Estate Sales Associate
The future of renewable energy remains a question in the mind of many with the new administration. Will renewable energy resources suffer from president-elect Trump’s fossil fuel support? His policy details have not been released but according to his policy site, fossil fuels along side renewable resources will continue to shape America’s future towards energy independence.
With the administration’s promise to increase jobs in America, Trump may support expanding job-producing renewable energy sectors such as solar. As of 2015 the solar energy industry employs 3 times as many people as the coal mining industry. It has produced jobs at a rate 12 times higher then the national employment growth. 208,859 solar jobs were recorded in the U.S. as of December 2015, an increase of 20% from the previous year. For 2016 nearly 240,000 jobs from solar businesses are projected in all 50 states.
Since it’s inception in 2006, The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has given the solar industry so much strength and growth, that it was extended in 2015. The ITC is a federal tax incentive giving the consumer a 30% income tax credit when installed by the end of 2019. In 2020 the credit will drop to 26% and in 2021 to 22%.
Many questioned Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla who recently merged with SolarCity, about how the uncertainty of future incentive policies or lack there-of would effect his businesses. In a question and answer session Musk said that it's a “misconception... that Tesla is reliant on incentives or subsidies.” With the unveiling of Tesla Solar Roofs pictured, Musk aims to make these beautiful and powerful roofs more affordable than a traditional roof. His mission to create a one-stop shop for green energy is reliant on the customers that believe in him and his message to "accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy."
The Green Mountain State is wasting no time on the renewable resource front setting a policy standard of 75% of energy to be provided by renewables by 2032. Vermonters embraced this policy by producing over 250MW of renewable energies over the last five years. Solar has had the greatest growth towards achieving Vermont's energy goals. Attributed to statewide financial incentives such as net metering, federal tax incentives, and incentives offered by local solar companies such as SunCommon.
With net metering Vermonters are their own grid. Currently, net metering allows customers to exchange their renewable energy for electric bill credits. During the spring months credits roll into the next months and in the winter credits are used up. Excess credits are reusable for up to 12 months. To avoid expired credits, customers may use group net metering so a group may use communal excess energy. A customer looking to receive net metering must first apply for a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board. In January 2017, the Vermont legislature will alter renewable resource customer incentives.
SunCommon is Vermont's largest solar company employing 65 workers, providing their own customer incentives. Emily McManamy of SunCommon says "Through innovative no upfront cost financing options, SunCommon has now helped 3,000 Vermont households find a solar solution, whether that been rooftop, ground-mounted, Community Solar, solar home energy storage or small business and commercial solar." They aim to make solar easy and affordable for every household in Vermont via financing.
The incentives' future is unclear. Whether removed or fossil fuel incentives reinstated, it will be up to the states to mandate laws and provide incentives for their population and for the planet. 29 states and 3 U.S. territories had renewable portfolio standards in August 2016. These states have policies to increase renewable energy generation. Another 8 states and 1 territory have voluntary renewable energy goals. Hopefully they will continue to work toward their standards and goals regardless of the fate of incentives.
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