By: Mike Hower
The United States renewable energy sector has long-benefited from public policies at federal, state and local levels, which have provided everything from direct investment in solar and wind projects to tax credits that help homeowners and businesses to “go solar.”
Thanks in large part to this support, renewable energy has grown from just 7 percent of the nation’s total energy generation in 2007 to 13 percent in 2014, according to a report released earlier this year by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Most of this increase is being driven by wind and solar, which has more than tripled in capacity since 2008. In some areas of the US, wind energy is now the lowest cost option for utilities, and solar energy is cheaper than retail electricity for homeowners in several states.
But government money is starting to dry up, which threatens to curtail this upward trend towards a renewable energy future. The largest federal renewable energy tax credit, which offers a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties, is set to expire by the end of 2016. Meanwhile, many local solar rebates are declining or sunsetting altogether. Another major incentive, net energy metering, also is under attack in many utility jurisdictions.
As government financial support wanes, many states are turning to the private sector to nurture their renewable energy markets, which also is proving to be a boon to business.