Site Tracks Eco Tax Incentives, Grants, and Rebates

Site Tracks Eco Tax Incentives, Grants, and Rebates

A federal database now serves as the nation's most comprehensive online resource for programs and incentives to promote renewable energy, from loans to install wind power facilities to rebates for solar panel installations in office buildings.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) tracks information on financial incentives and regulatory policies, as well as awareness and investment programs available at the state, utility, and local levels.

The Web site presents a summary of the renewable energy programs and incentives available in 45 communities in 23 states. A colorful table shows at a glance what cities and states offer green pricing or purchasing, tax incentives, grants, rebates and loans, and solar or wind accessability.

Rebates are the most common local financial incentive type, available primarily for solar water heating and photovoltaic systems.

Rebates typically range from $150 to $1,500, although the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic Buydown Incentive Program offers a maximum of $5 per watt for photovoltaic systems manufactured inside the City of Los Angeles. The maximum payment for each site is $50,000 for residential and $1 million for commercial customers. In some cases, rebate programs can be combined with low or no-interest loans.

Many local governments implement tax policies to promote the use of renewables. Fifteen states automatically exempt certain renewable energy devices from local property taxes, while others provide local authorities the option of providing property tax exemptions. The DSIRE project has identified six states with local option provisions: Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia.

Among the most ambitious utility green pricing efforts to date is one in the state capital of Austin, Texas. Austin Energy kicked off the new millennium by inviting its 350,000 electricity customers to sign up for GreenChoice.

Under the GreenChoice program, residential and business customers may choose to apply the fuel charge portion of their electric bill, plus a small premium, to purchase clean renewable energy. Austin Energy will also match participants' subscriptions dollar-for-dollar. Only 10 months after officially launching its GreenChoice green pricing option, Austin Energy fully subscribed its initial 40 MW of wind and landfill gas generated electricity, and began distributing the renewable energy through its system this year. In total, more than 3,000 customers have signed up for the service. Unlike many other utility green pricing programs, business customers have committed to purchase a majority of the available power -- nearly 85 percent.

Another state capital, Olympia, Washington, has established a solar pioneers program. At the beginning of 1999, Olympia received a $30,000 Solar Grant from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives' Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, funded by the U.S. EPA. Olympia is using its grant to fund the installation of municipal solar photovoltaic systems, as well as to create a municipal buy-down for residential and commercial solar systems. The city's intention is to demonstrate that renewable energy technology can play a valuable role in the Pacific Northwest.

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council's Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) project was established in 1995. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Power Technologies and is managed by the North Carolina Solar Center.

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