Extend the Treasury 1603 Program to Grow the Solar Energy Industry

The Treasury 1603 Program – formally known as Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 – has provided thousands of jobs to Americans in the solar energy field, and has created enough solar energy to power hundreds of thousands of homes. The program is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, but in order to create more jobs and keep the solar energy industry thriving, Congress must take action to renew the program for another year.

According to a report published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a national trade association for solar energy companies, extending the Treasury 1603 Program through the end of 2012 would create 37,934 jobs in the solar energy industry and would produce 500 megawatts (MW) of solar energy – enough electricity to power more than 100,000 homes.

The market growth created by a one-year expansion of the program would extend the program’s effects through 2016, as some projects beginning in 2012 would not be completed until 2016. These extended projects would see a total of 2,000 MW of solar energy installed between 2012 and 2016, powering more than 400,000 homes.

A two-year program expansion would add 51,000 jobs in 2013 and increase the total of solar energy installed from 2012 to 2016 to 3,600 MW, while a five-year expansion would create 114,000 jobs in 2015 and bring the total capacity of installed solar energy to 7,300 MW from 2012 to 2016. A five-year expansion would also encourage sustainable and long-term market growth that would allow the solar energy industry to continue to grow after the program expires.

SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch said in a press release, “More than 100,000 Americans work in the solar industry, double the number in 2009. Solar is a proven job creator at a time when the unemployment rate for the country remains stubbornly high. The 1603 Treasury Program has been the single most effective policy driving renewable energy growth during the past two years. At a time when President Obama and Congress are looking for solutions for America’s jobs crisis, it would be unconscionable to allow this proven job-creating program to expire.”

“Killing the 1603 Program amounts to a tax increase on the thousands of small businesses that are creating jobs in solar. The bottom line is that our capital markets are still in trouble and this program is needed today as much as it was when it was created.  Allowing it to lapse would kill jobs and severely restrict the market’s ability to leverage private sector capital to finance new domestic energy projects. Congress must extend the 1603 program to help the American economy,” Resch said.

The Treasury 1603 Program was established following the 2008 economic downturn, at a time when tax incentives for expanding the use of solar energy and installing renewable energy were of little value, as there were limited government funds available for the creation of new renewable energy projects. The program lets commercial properties looking to install solar energy opt out of receiving tax incentives for outfitting their buildings with solar energy, and instead gives them a financial grant for 30 percent of the project cost. Instead of receiving money back at the end of the fiscal year in the form of tax credits, companies receive the money up front in the form of grants, allowing projects to begin sooner.

A petition drafted on ForceChange.com encourages Congress to expand the Treasury 1603 Program through 2012, in order to create more than 37,000 new jobs for Americans. Add your name to the petition to encourage economic growth and renewable energy projects.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jeremylevinedesign/2814805163

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