Progressive politics are the rule in the Pacific Northwest, and that includes so-called “sunset provisions” in local and state legislation. The theory is that policies should expire automatically after a certain amount of time has elapsed. If the policy still enjoys popular support, it can be re-enacted. The current Renewable Energy Tax Credit for people who install residential solar systems on their homes is due to expire in a little over a year on January 1, 2018, but the Oregon legislature is considering extending the RETC “for two years or until a replacement program is adopted.”
The Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association has made extending RETC a priority during the 2017 legislative session. It says a two-year extension is a “good starting point,” but wants to go further “to align with timelines set for the federal Investment Tax Credit.” Federal law authorizes a 30% tax credit for the cost of a solar power system through the end of 2019. After that, the credit drops to 22% in 2020, then 22% for the next three years after that.
According to a recent Public Utility Commission report, RETC cost the state of Oregon $55.8 million from 2001 through 2015 and resulted in 41.9 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity — about 75% of it for rooftop solar. Residential solar has been growing at a steady rate in Oregon, but it hasn’t taken off the way utility-scale solar has. GTM Research says Oregon saw 88 megawatts of utility-scale solar installed in the first 9 months of the year, compared to 9 megawatts of residential solar.