RENEWABLE ENERGY INCENTIVES
States with tax breaks or rebates for residents who buy clean-energy systems and those with net metering laws permitting consumers to sell power they generate to electric companies at retail rates. State State rebates Net metering State income tax incentives Alabama • Arizona • • California • • • Colorado • • Connecticut • • Delaware • • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • • • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • • Kentucky • • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • • • Massachusetts • • • Michigan • Minnesota • • Montana • • Nevada • • New Hampshire • • New Jersey • • New Mexico • • New York • • • North Carolina • • North Dakota • • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • • • Pennsylvania • • Puerto Rico Rhode Island • • South Carolina • Texas • • Utah • • Vermont • • Virginia • Washington • • Wisconsin • • Wyoming •
ENERGY LAWS VARY
The USA is a patchwork of alternative energy laws in which some states offer much more generous incentives than others for homeowners and businesses to install solar or wind systems.
Renewable energy representatives say the inconsistency hampers mass adoption, keeping prices high.
Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C., allow homeowners who generate their own electricity to sell their surplus to utilities at retail rates. They can offset the power they draw from the grid with what they send in, driving their bills toward zero.
But some states have more consumer-friendly rules than others. California and New Jersey, for instance, let homeowners roll over electricity credits into the next month’s bill for a year. In others, such as Massachusetts and Arkansas, a customer who generates a surplus in a given month is paid a much lower, wholesale rate. Just 17 states offer rebates on solar or wind systems. Solar industry officials blame big utilities that don’t want to relinquish market share and wield huge influence with state legislatures.
"It’s frustrating that you don’t have consistency across all 50 states," says Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Tom Dyer of Kyocera Solar, the No. 3 maker, says, "What I would really like to see is a federal (rebate) program" modeled after those in Japan and Germany.
But the Energy Department’s Craig Stevens says, "A lot of this is handled regionally by state law. There wouldn’t really be a role for the federal government."
Instead, he says, the White House wants to lower costs with improved technology. President Bush has proposed a 78% jump in solar research funding.
Meanwhile, some utilities say current laws are unfair to them and to other ratepayers. In Northern California, Pacific Gas and Electric says it should not be forced to pay customers retail rates for their surplus electricity. Customers are simply providing raw energy that doesn’t account for transmission-line costs.
"We should pay you the wholesale rate for … your electricity," says Bruce Bowen, PG&E director of regulatory policy. Other ratepayers, he says, subsidize the gap between the two rates. The subsidy, now negligible, could total about 50 cents monthly in eight to 10 years when more people use clean energy systems.
Bowen’s argument doesn’t account for the fact that energy produced by homes and businesses eases strains on power lines during peak midday periods, says V. John White, who heads the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies in California. "It’s quality power that strengthens the grid," he says.
Paul Davidson, USA TODAY