Congress can keep Maine’s solar momentum going

By Kale Inoue, Special to the BDN
Posted Feb. 13, 2012, at 4:40 p.m.

The solar industry is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise struggling economy. I speak from personal experience. My solar company, Talmage Solar Engineering, Inc. has grown by more 400 percent over the last three years.

Since the recession hit, we’ve hired scores of installers, engineers and administrators and paid employees more than $1 million in wages, which helps bolster our community. In addition, our company has generated millions of dollars in taxable revenues, and we’ve spent tens of millions of dollars procuring system equipment made in the U.S by domestic manufacturers.

These wages and equipment dollars have gone to hundreds of U.S. workers supporting their families. The U.S. workers and their families have in turn used their wages to buy food, pay their mortgages and fund their education.

My company is just one of many solar businesses here in Maine that are creating jobs and making it easier for energy consumers to choose solar to power their homes, businesses, organizations, agencies and cities. As has been the case with every major source of energy we use, smart, cost-effective federal policy has played a key role in allowing Maine to realize the significant energy and economic benefits associated with the expanded use of solar energy.

One of these smart policies is the Section 1603 Treasury Program. This highly effective policy changes the timing and manner by which an existing tax incentive can be claimed to deploy solar and a host of other renewable and clean energy technologies. This simple change in timing, however, makes the financing necessary to deploy renewable energy projects available to small businesses and project developers.

The end result is growth in an industry that has allowed American citizens to regain control of the cost of their electricity and the source of their fuel. The 1603 Treasury Program offers a 30 percent grant in lieu of tax credit. It does not cost the government or taxpayers any more than existing tax incentives.

By any objective measure, the program is working, and taxpayers are getting a great return on investment. Maine’s solar industry is now home to more than 55 companies that manufacture, install, distribute and develop solar energy systems. Much of this growth can be attributed to the success of the 1603 Program.

Here in Maine, the 1603 Program has driven $480 million in private clean tech investment and $24 billion in private investment nationwide. The U.S. solar industry now employs over 100,000 Americans, which is more than double the number from two years ago. For every dollar awarded in the 1603 program more than $4 is pushed into the U.S. economy.

The ripple effect of this program reaches far into the homes of America in sectors that have suffered the most as of late. Many American electricians, engineers, accountants, lawyers, factory workers, truckers, steel workers and installers are paying their mortgages and their taxes because of this ripple effect. Millions of American citizens and businesses are also saving on their electric bills as a result of this program.

Unfortunately, the 1603 Program was allowed to expire on Dec. 31. As the economy continues to struggle, now is not the time to pull the plug on this proven, common sense policy that creates jobs and economic growth. If Congress does not act and extend the 1603 program, the growth of the solar industry in Maine will be stifled and an opportunity to create more jobs and growth will be lost.

That is why Talmage Solar Engineering and a coalition of Maine and solar companies throughout the U.S. are calling on Congress to extend the 1603 Program. Every day that goes by without this important policy in place means lost jobs and investment for Maine.

Our state has shown the promise and benefits of expanding the use of solar energy. Extending the 1603 Program will allow us to reap the significant economic and energy benefits associated with solar energy.

Kale Inoue is chief financial officer Talmage Solar Engineering, Inc., which is located in Arundel.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/02/13/opinion/contributors/congress-can-keep-maines-solar-momentum-going/ printed on November 26, 2014