Losing Solar Panel Tax Credit Could Hurt Utah Homeowners

Nov 29, 2016

Utah homeowners are in danger of losing a $2,000 tax credit for rooftop solar panels. Members of the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee recently looked at a bill that would end the tax credit by 2021.

Some Utah lawmakers want to phase out a $2,000 tax credit that homeowners can receive for installing rooftop solar panels. The credit costs the state budget under $1 million annually. By the end of this year, the credit will amount to $20 million dollars.

The bill was proposed by Republican Representative Jeremy Peterson. His bill would phase out the tax credit by 2021. He says the $20 million credit total is causing schools to miss out on potential funding.

“We want to promote the independence of the industry," he said. "The industry was given some training wheels, so to speak, with the tax credit, to kind of prop it up. And it seems to have immediately taken off, suddenly and unexpectedly. So it seems time to pull those training wheels off and let the industry run under its own strength.”

Democratic Representative Joel Briscoe spoke against the bill, arguing that every Utah energy source has tax incentives, especially oil and gas. He says focusing on one renewable energy source ignores a wealth of positives that are produced by tax credits for renewable energy, like creating more jobs and promoting clean energy.

“I think this is worthy of looking at but I think we’re looking at it in isolation and we’re narrowing in the scope. I’m thinking about oil and gas, the subsidies we provide for oil and gas," Briscoe said. "For every dollar we given to renewable the federal government has provided $74 in subsidies to oil and gas.”

The elimination of the tax credit, coupled with a possible change in billing for solar customers, would hurt the industry and cause job losses, according to Utah Solar Energy Association president Ryan Evans.

“We found that for every $20 million dollars in state funding of this individual tax credit, not corporate tax credit, it generated about $313 million dollars in total economic impact. So quite a bit is actually coming back to the community," Evans said.

At the end of the session, the Legislature's Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee recommended pushing the proposal forward.