Fitch: Recent tax credit extensions provide stability for renewables development

Fitch Ratings said Feb. 12 that U.S. tax credits extended at the end of 2015 for solar and wind power projects are expected to increase renewable energy capacity installation, as will the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Notable is that the U.S. Supreme Court recently stayed the Clean Power Plan while appeals of that CO2-reducing regime are argued out at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Clean Power Plan would cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 32% by 2030.

The tax credits will wind down in 2022, Fitch noted. The 30% investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy was scheduled to fall to 10% in 2017, while the 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour production tax credit (PTC) for wind facilities expired in 2014. Now the ITC will remain at 30% through 2018, then step down to 10% by 2022. The PTC will stay at 2.3 cents per kWh in 2016 before phasing down by 60% by 2020.

Fitch wrote: “Prior tax credit extensions were short-term and sometimes retroactive, creating a boom-bust cycle of project development. Without a clear understanding of how long and at what level the tax credits would remain in effect, the long-term investment and financing decisions necessary for industry stability did not appear. With the new legislation, projects that would have been rushed into construction to beat previous tax credit expiration dates can optimize their schedules, and more new projects will qualify for development with the cost advantages of the favorable tax treatment.

“Growth in renewable energy will be an important component of meeting greenhouse gas reduction objectives required under the CPP. It requires aggressive cuts in carbon dioxide emissions for electric generators by 2030, with the first performance period beginning in 2022 under the current schedule, although this may be revised due to recent legal challenges. The tax credit program through 2022 will support increasing proportions of zero-emissions renewable capacity in the overall generation mix, enabling states to rely on renewables to achieve final CPP goals. Similarly, the tax credit extension will support further development of utility-scale renewable energy projects needed for states to meet current and future renewable portfolio standard requirements.

“Solar installations grew by 6500% from the first year of the ITC in 2006 through 2014, and utility-scale costs for solar energy have dropped by more than 60% since 2010. With continued capacity growth and cost reductions, both wind and solar energy industries will be in improved competitive positions by 2022 and less reliant on continuing subsidies.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.