For U.S. Renewable Energy, 2012 Will Be a Bad Year – TIME

December 14, 2011
TIME – “The next year is going to be a Darwinian one for the solar industry,” says Ed Fenster, CEO of SunRun, a solar-financing company. “The expiration of 1603 means that smaller companies are going to have a difficult time getting access to capital.”

…the end isn’t likely to be as positive. U.S. wind and solar companies are panicking over the murky future of federal support for renewable energy. Generous tax credits and subsidies…. “Wind-turbine manufacturing has been a bright spot for the U.S. over the past few years,” said Denise Bode…. “But we’re putting those jobs at risk.”

Renewable-energy projects are eligible for the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which provides a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced in a wind farm or solar-utility project, for the first 10 years of operation. That money has driven rising investment in renewable energy over the past several years. IHS Emerging Energy Research estimates that the PTC — which has been in place since 2005 — has supported an average of 5.6 gigawatts of annual growth in wind energy, which has helped the industry reach more than 43 gigawatts of installed capacity.

But the PTC for wind is set to expire at the end of 2012. A study by Navigant Consulting — admittedly commissioned by the AWEA — predicts that if that happens, investment in the industry will drop from $15.6 billion in 2012 to $5.5 billion in 2013, while jobs will fall from 78,000 to 41,000. New wind installation would fall to 2 gigawatts from the 8 gigawatts of installation that is projected to occur if the PTC is renewed. …. But a funny thing happens during a recession: companies stop making a profit, which also means they stop paying much in taxes — so they have little use for tax credits. As the tax-equity market dried up, so did financing for renewable energy — especially solar projects, which already receive less investment than wind.

Enter the 1603 program, which was also enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus. Instead of receiving a credit against tax bills, companies that invested in renewable energy could simply get cash straight from the federal government, bypassing the tax-equity problem. As a result, investment in renewables soared — last year 1603 paid out $3.3 billion, helping the solar industry employ some 100,000 people. But if 1603 isn’t renewed — and with House Republicans against anything that smells of “stimulus,” it’s not looking good — the U.S. solar industry could lose nearly 37,000 jobs and miss out on as much as 2 gigawatts of additional installation. Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2102129,00.html#ixzz1gVXUY18Q

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