Hundreds of solar companies urge Congress to expand solar ITC and add direct pay option

Published on July 15, 2020 by Chris Galford

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In response to the thousands of jobs lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 650 solar companies wrote to Congress this week urging lawmakers to lengthen deadlines for the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and create a direct pay option.

Both actions, the companies argued, would aid recovery — something sorely needed, with some 72,000 solar jobs lost to the pandemic by the end of June.

“Job creation isn’t a partisan issue and we should be looking to job producers in the solar industry to help lead us out of this economic crisis,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “With small policy changes, the solar industry can quickly and efficiently create jobs and add billions of dollars in investment. If lawmakers want to put Americans back to work, they should invest in solutions that can unleash the economic power of solar, one of the fastest-growing industries in America.”

The companies noted that there are, in fact, signs of an eventual rebound on the way, but that recovery remains tied to economies reopening. Plus, the ITC relies on healthy tax equity markets, which have tightened as a result of the pandemic. This makes it more expensive for solar companies to acquire funding for their projects — or even to keep the lights on.

“Making the tax credit more accessible through a direct pay option would make the industry less reliant on tax equity markets and restore much-needed liquidity, helping to keep workers on the payroll and projects moving forward,” the companies wrote. “We also can’t rewind the clock. In 2020 the credit began its step-down schedule and will continue to step down until it reaches 10% in 2022 for commercial and utility-scale projects and zeroes out for residential solar projects. The step-down schedule didn’t factor in a public health crisis and pushing back the phase down schedule to account for this period of lost time is needed to put solar companies in a position to lead economic recovery.”

Before the pandemic, the solar industry had been experiencing a few years of growth, and that clean energy has had an impact on consumers. In a poll of 1,917 people conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, ClimateNexus Polling and the George Mason University for Climate Change Communication, 75 percent indicated their states should prioritize funding the clean energy industry over the fossil fuel industry with recovery money.

In their letter to Congress, the industry also called for legislative provisions that would guarantee more diverse energy workforces, investments in training and creating solar access programs for lower-income communities.