Solar to feds: Let's be creative about incentives for alternative energy investment

Remember how happy all the alternative energy tech companies were late last year when the government renewed the tax incentives possible for investing in their products? Well, now things are a little less euphoric, as the Obama administration grapples with how certain components of mammoth economic stimulus plan should REALLY be appropriated.

Remember how happy all the alternative energy tech companies were late last year when the government renewed the tax incentives possible for investing in their products? Well, now things are a little less euphoric, as the Obama administration grapples with how certain components of mammoth economic stimulus plan should REALLY be appropriated. The House just passed the plan, as Harry reports, but I predict this isn't over.

I'm not going to rewrite all the great articles that have been written about this topic because I don't cover Washington and that's not the point of blogging. But if you want a down-and-dirty education on what's going on, these two (from MSNBC and the Center for American Progress) do a really good job of laying out all the possibilities for green/clean/alternative energy technology.

But one glitch in the current bills up for consideration is the way that incentives for solar panels, wind turbines and other types of renewable energy-generating equipment are paid out.

According to SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive (who is out lobbying about this), it's simple: these incentives are offered as tax credits BUT if a company doesn't generate enough revenue to make a profit, it can't take advantage of them. What's more, the current economic climate is leading many homeowners who still ARE considering such an investment to structure it as a lease. So, yet again, our credit woes have come back to bite us you know where. If you want to read more details, this article from Earth2Tech does a good job.

The point of Rive and other leaders in the solar industry is that the money has already been earmarked for these investments, why not make it simpler for people to actually use them. "If this doesn't get addressed in the stimulus package, the industry will face a downturn," he says.

Actually, that's already happening, if you consider what's going on with Ausra, the big solar company based in Palo Alto, which just had to idle something like 10 percent of its workforce. Here's a great story from Green Wombat about it general woes. Sadly, sounds like a lot of other mainstream companies in the United States. Be careful what you wish for.

If you still have money to invest AND you live in California, SunRun is taking matters into its own hands with what it is calling the Solar Stimulus Package. SunRun is encouraging the leasing option, but it's also throwing in free system maintenance and monitoring for three years plus a fixed discount rate plus a chance to get your first three months free if you sign up by March 20, 2009.

Anything creative going on outside of California.

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