The week before Christmas Congress passed a pair of budget bills that contained multi-year extensions of tax credits to encourage solar and wind energy development. The extensions were part of a package deal that included extensions for other renewable energy sources such as geothermal, landfill gas, and hydro in exchange for lifting the 1970s ban on the export of crude oil.
The solar energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was set to decline from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016. The legislation extends the tax credit at the 30% level through the end of 2019, after which it will decline annually until it hits 10% in 2022. The extension will help the solar industry avoid the boom and bust cycles that have plagued the wind industry due to chronic uncertainty around the production tax credit.
The wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) was extended at the $0.023/kWh level through 2016. The PTC will then decline 20% per year from 2017 through 2020.
The extension of the ITC will help solar to continue its rapid growth trajectory. GTM research attributes a 30% increase in solar investment through 2020, more than $40 billion, to the extension of the ITC. Overall, GTM is predicting that nearly 100 gigawatts of installations, representing $130 billion in investments by 2020. Though a net positive, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is predicting that the extension of the ITC will reduce the amount of solar installed in 2016 as developers no longer have to rush to meet the ITC expiration deadline at the end of 2016. Overall, BNEF predicts the total solar installations in 2016 will be down about 2.8 gigawatts, but the 2017 increase will more than make up for this reduction.