President Biden has promised a great infrastructure investment, to include a suite of policy intiatives that will switch the shift the clean energy revolution into high gear, from slow burn to raging fire. So how has the legislative agenda meant to achieve those results played out so far in terms of solar?
The infrastructure investment and recovery act
The first piece of the agenda, the Infrastructure Investment and Recovery Act, became law on November 15, 2021. Its impacts on the solar industry, particularly rooftop and commercial solar, are tangential. For example, it requires that the Department of Energy (DOE) assess the solar potential of current and former mining sites, that is, how economical would it be to transform, say, a coal mine in Pennsylvania into a solar farm. It also empowers the DOE to study the feasibility of interstate transmission lines that might connect solar generation in one area to distant consumption sites, and establishes the "Program Upgrading Our Electric Grid Reliability and Resiliency." New solar tech may play a key role is supporting the new program's mission to enhance grid realibility and security.
The build back better act
Yet, all of these initiatives are essentially tangential. They don't strike at the heart of solar policy. They don't touch on the Federal ITC or set rules for nationwide net metering. For that, we need to turn to the upcoming—still a bill at time of writing—Build Back Better Act (BBBA).
Inside BBBA sits the core of the Biden administration's climate agenda. While family benefits make up the largest part of the bill at $585 billion, climate spending makes up the second largest at $235 billion. The most important set aside for solar is a ten-year extension of the solar investment tax credit. The Clean Energy Payment Program, which would have taxed and incentivized utilities to push them towards renewables, was removed. Instead, we have a restoration of the production tax credit. That is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for every kwh of energy produced, in addition to the fully restored federal tax-credit of 30 percent of gross solar system cost. Finally, the bill extends the tax credit to energy storage system's rate 5kw or higher.
Indeed BBBA would be absolutely monumental for the solar industry and, of course, the environment. Call you or email your senator's office to help to support BBBA's passage!