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Commentary: Tell Congress to see the light on solar energy

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The Solar Energy Industry Association is forecasting potential job losses in the renewable energy sector as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn. File/Provided

President Donald Trump recently stated his support for solar energy, saying, “I’m a believer in solar energy. ... It’s got a long way to go, but it’s really got a tremendous future.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Here in South Carolina, that future has arrived. This past spring our state legislators passed the Energy Freedom Act, which expands solar freedom, lowers energy rates statewide and enables the free market to succeed in a state where big utilities have historically held all the power.

South Carolina quickly is emerging as one of the true innovators in the nation. As of the first quarter of 2019, we are now the fifth-largest solar market in the United States.

Now it’s time for Congress to step up and do its part. At the end of this year, the solar investment tax credit (ITC) is scheduled to be reduced. This reduction would be bad for business, but most importantly, it would be bad news for you, the energy consumer.

This common-sense policy has been the driving factor in jump-starting massive investment into the solar industry across the country, and it has created hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs since it was created in 2005. The ITC is not some new program. It’s been around for nearly 15 years, since President George W. Bush signed it into law.

What the ITC does is simple: If you’re an individual — like a homeowner, small business, or church — looking to install solar panels, the tax credit allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installation from your federal taxes. This is huge when it comes to reducing the barrier to entry for installing solar. Thanks to the tax credit, a typical customer can save around $5,000.

This means more and more people are able to make the switch to solar, which means more and more American solar companies are entering the market. That leads to more good-paying jobs, local economic growth, and widespread opportunity in an industry that the president knows has a “tremendous future.”

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If our members of Congress allow this credit to expire, it would only serve to stunt that future. The growth and innovation that has been such a boon for working-class men and women, especially in markets like South Carolina, would come to a halt.

To be clear: The solar industry isn’t asking for special treatment. All it wants is a level playing field. Over the past six decades, fossil fuels and nuclear power have received eight times more government subsidies than solar (see Summer, V.C.). It’s time we recognize that keeping the tax credit in place would help level the playing field and fuel more competition needed to make energy cheaper for all Americans.

Investing in the future through tax credits like the one for solar has a proven track record of boosting the economy and providing cheaper energy options for Americans.

Many members of Congress know this, which is why they recently reintroduced the Renewable Energy Extension Act. This bill, unlike so many pieces of legislation these days, is truly bipartisan. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats or cheap political talking points. Instead, it’s about creating jobs and helping energy consumers.

That’s why I ask anyone who cares about energy freedom and better options for your family and your business to contact your congressmen. Tell them our national security in coming decades will depend on multiple energy options. Tell them to think about the tens of thousands of solar energy workers and customers already thriving across the country, and what would happen if Congress pulled the plug on solar.

We’ve already proven in South Carolina what can happen when common-sense laws are passed. Let’s hope Washington takes notice and sees the light.

Matt Moore was chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party 2013-17 and is honorary chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition.

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