In a 77-20 vote, the Washington House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the state’s solar production tax credit program, which is currently poised to sunset. The legislation, H.B.2346, now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
According to bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, the state incentive was established back in 2005 and provides tax credits on a kilowatt-hour basis to eligible homeowners and businesses that own a solar installation. The rate varies depending on the project and technology type, and it can be increased if system components are manufactured within the state.
Morris says that although the program will continue for current participants over the next several years, it is set to stop accepting new applications on July 1, 2016. Therefore, H.B.2346 would extend the program and allow new applicants until 2021.
The representative says he’s been fighting for the program reauthorization since 2013, when he introduced a similar bill. Morris claims utilities opposed that effort and came forward with attacks on net metering and wanted fixed charges for solar customers who attach to the electric grid.
Morris says H.B.2346 represents a deal he brokered among various energy interest group: “I know some fear exists among our utilities about the change customers want in the utility business. We will address those issues going into [the next legislative] session.”
If enacted, Morris believes the reauthorized program, which he has dubbed Solar Version 2.0, will “easily double” how much solar the existing program has helped subsidize.
“The bottom line is that encouraging local consumers to use solar energy is not just good for the environment – doing so provides local, family-wage jobs in an emerging industry,” he concludes.
Photo courtesy of Rep. Morris: The lawmaker stands among a solar installation atop the Washington State Capitol.