Renewable Energy Incentives
If you live in Delaware, New York, Florida, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey or Rhode Island, you can save big bucks on a solar- or wind-powered system
By John Carroll and Susan Gouchoe
Buying a renewable energy system is more affordable than ever thanks to rebates and tax breaks from state governments and local utilities, and even some rebates from private companies.epending on where you live, renewable energy subsidies can reduce the cost of a wind- or solar-powered system by more than half of the total expense. In Rhode Island, for example, residents can receive a rebate of $5 a watt for up to 50 percent of the cost of a photovoltaic (PV) system. In other states, such as New Jersey, rebates of up to 70 percent of system costs are available
This article is the last in a three-part series summarizing some of the best subsidies in 17 states for installation of wind, solar water-heating and PV systems. Part I, in the December/January 2005 issue, covered Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Part II, in the February/March issue, covered Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin. Incentives are available in other states, but these renewable energy programs stand out in a growing crowd.
As natural gas and oil prices rise and electric grid problems mount, an increasing number of cities and states are setting ambitious targets for boosting renewable energy production. New programs continue to pop up across the nation — visit www.dsireusa.org to learn more about the offers summarized in this article, or for programs in your area. Other good sources of information are your local utility company and state energy office
• Delaware recently bumped its renewable energy grant to 50 percent of the cost of a wind or solar system — up to $22,500 for residential systems; $3,000 for residential solar water heating; $100,000 for nonresidential wind-powered turbines and $250,000 for a nonresidential PV or solar water-heating system. To be eligible, you must be a customer of Conectiv Power Delivery, or your utility company must contribute to the Green Energy Fund (www.delaware-energy.com)
• Conectiv Power and Delaware Electric Cooperative offer net metering for renewable energy systems 25 kilowatts (kW) or less. Some utilities and electric co-ops do as well, so check with your electricity supplier for participation.
• New York’s investor-owned utility companies will generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2013 as a result of a state Public Service Commission order in 2004. Renewable energy currently accounts for about 19 percent of the state’s electricity supply
• The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (www. nyserda.org) offers a PV rebate up to $4.50 per watt — Energy Star-rated homes earn a larger rebate — for up to 60 percent of the cost for systems from approved installers working with customers of the state’s six utility companies. Systems up to 50 kW are eligible for rebates. The utility also subsidizes wind turbines installed by approved contractors up to 50 percent of the installation cost of a 500-watt to 10-kW wind system, and up to 70 percent for small commercial projects. Larger wind projects receive a reduced incentive, and the utility has a network of more than 90 lenders providing interest-rate reductions on loans for energy-efficiency projects and renewable technologies. Interest rates for loans can be reduced by 4 percent for up to 10 years
• Long Island Power Authority pays a rebate of $4 per watt for PV systems up to 10 kW.
• A 25-percent tax credit is available for residential PV installations up to $3,750 of a system’s cost
• A 15-year property tax exemption is set for solar and wind systems. PV systems up to 10 kW that meet uniform interconnection rules are approved for net energy metering agreements
• The utility company JEA pays up to 30 percent — or $25,000 — for commercial solar water-heating systems when purchased from a local supplier. Buying from a nonlocal vendor reduces the savings to a 15-percent rebate on the total cost of a solar water heater.
• Residential solar water-heater collectors have rebates of $25 per square foot ($15 per square foot with nonlocal vendors). Go to www.jea.com for a list of approved vendors. Although the utility no longer offers cash incentives for PV systems, JEA does provide net metering deals for residential wind and PV generators for systems up to 10 kW; excess credit is applied to future bills
• Gainesville Regional Utilities offers a $300 to $450 rebate on solar water-heating units, depending on the number of British thermal units (Btu) delivered
• Solar energy systems are exempt from sales tax
• Both on- and off-grid renewable energy systems, including PV, wind and solar water-heating, are exempt from the state’s 6-percent sales tax.
• Net metering is available to residents who obtain a “Certificate of Public Good” from the Vermont Public Service Board (www.state.vt.us/psd). System capacity is limited to 15 kW for PV and wind systems
• The Mainstay Energy company will purchase renewable energy credits from owners of PV and wind systems through its Rewards Program. The payment is based on the type of renewable energy technology, the amount of production and the length of the contract period. Mainstay offers three-, five- and 10-year contracts in which the longer the contract period, the greater the incentive payment. Participating customers have a choice to receive quarterly payments based on one of the following: market-price, fixed-price or upfront rewards.
• Massachusetts’ 1997 electric utility restructuring calls on electricity providers to generate at least 4 percent of the state’s electricity using renewables by 2009, annually increasing by 1 percent thereafter
• The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC; www.masstech.org) handles a public fund for a variety of renewable energy and green building initiatives. In 2003 and 2004, MTC offered grants for PV systems through a variety of organizations that resulted in about 280 new PV installations in 90 cities and towns across Massachusetts. Although this program is no longer available, MTC is exploring new initiatives for 2005 and beyond. Consult the “Renewable Energy Trust” link at MTC’s Web site for information on new programs
• The Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance (Mass Energy; www.mass energy.com) buys renewable energy certificates from solar electric generators for a period of three years at the rate of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is then sold as a green power product through National Grid, the utility serving most of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Income from the sale of renewable energy certificates will not reduce your savings through other net metering programs with the local utility.
• There’s a 15-percent state income tax credit up to $1,000 for the cost of a renewable energy system. Solar and wind systems are exempt from property taxes for a period of 20 years, and net metering deals are available up to 60 kW for both solar and wind systems.
• The New Jersey Clean Energy Rebate Program offers $5.50 per watt for PV systems up to 10 kW (for a maximum of 70 percent of total cost); $4 per watt on the next 90 kW (60 percent of total cost); $3.75 per watt for the next 400 kW and 30 cents per watt from 500 kW to 1 megawatt (all capped at 60 percent of total cost).
• Owners of solar electric and wind systems are eligible for a rebate of $5 per watt up to 60 percent of total costs. Larger wind systems are eligible for lower rebate amounts
• In addition to receiving a rebate, PV system owners can sell their renewable energy credits to electricity suppliers. By 2008, electric power suppliers in New Jersey are required to increase their use of clean energy to 6.5 percent of their energy portfolio. To meet this requirement, electric companies must acquire Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), which can be purchased from owners of PV systems. These SRECs can amount to $700 per year for a 2-kW system.
• Wind and solar systems are exempt from sales tax. Net metering is mandated for all residential systems
• A new state law mandates an increased use of renewable resources to 3 percent of Rhode Island’s electricity needs by 2007, rising incrementally each year until 16 percent is reached in 2019
• The Rhode Island State Energy Office — using money from the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund — offers rebates of $5 per watt up to 50 percent of a PV system’s cost; and $2 per watt for wind systems up to 50 kW, for both residential and commercial systems
• Although the state’s tax credit expired at the end of 2004, you can still retroactively receive a sales tax refund and property tax exemption for your residential solar or wind project if you bought it before 2005.
• People’s Power & Light buys renewable energy certificates from solar electric and wind system owners for a period of three years at the rate of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour to serve National Grid’s green power program. This payment is in addition to savings through net metering and other applicable programs.