Latest Budget Includes Extension Of Treasury Program, More Solar Funding


President Barack Obama's newly released fiscal-year 2013 (FY '13) U.S. budget provides for an extension of the U.S. Department of Treasury's Section 1603 program, also known as the cash-grant program. The popular incentive, which allowed many solar and other renewable energy projects to move forward, expired at the end of 2011.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) applauded the return of the program. ‘The lapse of the 1603 program at the end of last year has had a detrimental impact,’ said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch in a statement. ‘Small businesses and entrepreneurs who typically use this program and who would otherwise be hiring workers and starting new solar projects have been left in limbo.’

In addition, Obama's proposed FY '13 budget includes increased appropriations for several renewable-energy-related activities at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Overall, energy efficiency and renewable energy programs received a 29.1% increase over FY '12. The solar energy program was given $310 million – an increase over the approximately $288 million given in the FY '12 budget, as enacted.

The money is designed to allow the DOE to meet the following goals, as stated in the budget request:
– Make solar energy as cheap as traditional sources of electricity,
– Reduce the cost of solar electricity to $1/W at utility scale, $1.25/W at commercial scale and $1.50/W at residential scale by the end of the decade,
– Demonstrate a prototype thin-film or film-silicon module with greater than 21% efficiency by the end of 2013, and
– Enable a 50% reduction in permitting and installation costs.

Obama's budget also cuts certain incentives for fossil-fuel companies, which the president calls ‘unwarranted tax breaks’ in his letter introducing the budget.

‘The budget also invests in R&D to catalyze the next generation of clean energy
technologies,’ Obama adds in the letter. ‘These investments will help us achieve our goal of doubling the share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.’

The full budget proposal is available here.

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