The following is a summary of the main tax credits and incentives that are currently in place to make solar more affordable to those interested in installing a solar system in Washington. Click for a list of Washington utilities to find out more about your utility’s solar programs including net metering, if your utility participates in the state production incentive program, interconnection, and more.
Federal Income Tax Credit
The Solar Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) is a federal tax credit for solar systems placed on residential (under Section 25D) and commercial (under Section 48) properties. In December 2015, Congress acted to extend the 30% tax credit through 2019 with a step down in subsequent years: to 26% in 2020, to 22% in 2021, and thereafter it is 0 (zero) for home-owners and 10% for businesses.
The Wind Production Tax Credit declines on a different schedule than the tax credit for solar. Learn more about wind from American Wind Energy Association at http://www.awea.org/.
Sales Tax Exemption in Washington State
Solar PV systems of 10kW or less are exempt from sales tax. This exemption is available to both residential and commercial customers. This exemption will expire June 30, 2018. Click for more information.
Washington State Production Incentive
Passed unanimously by the Washington State Legislature in 2005, the Production Incentive was created using the following language.
“The legislature finds that the use of renewable energy resources generated from local sources such as solar and wind power benefit our state by reducing the load on the state’s electric energy grid, by providing nonpolluting sources of electricity generation, and by the creation of jobs for local industries that develop and sell renewable energy products and technologies.”
EXCERPT from RCW 82.16.110
By rewarding property owners for installing Made-in-WA solar systems at a higher rate, the hope was to launch clean renewable energy manufacturing in our state.
The Production Incentive is an annual payment based upon the total kilowatt hours (kWh) produced by a solar photovoltaic (PV), biogas, or wind system up to a maximum payment of $5000 annually.
Incentive rates are based upon a base rate of up to $.15/ kWh for equipment made out of state. The combination of a WA Made inverter with out of state solar panels earns up to $.18/ kWh. The combination of WA made panels with out of state inverter earns up to $.36 and when both the inverter and panels are Made in WA, the maximum incentive rate is $.54/ kWh for homes and businesses. Community Solar projects earn at a rate that is double the rate for an individual property owner (home or business owner).
The funding comes out of Public Utility Taxes that each utility would otherwise pay to the State. Utilities are charged with reading the meters and tracking the annual payments to customer generators.
Not only is there a cap of $5000 on the amount of funds any individual (or couple) can earn, there is also a cap of how much each utility can redirect out of their taxes they would be paying to the state. Each utility’s annual pool of funds available to pay the Production Incentive is capped at .5% of their taxable sales for the year.
The Production Incentive program expires June 30, 2020 and no payments will be made for kWh generated after that date.
To find out how the caps affect the incentive rates your utility is paying, you must contact your utility. It is different for each one. Some utilities simply closed their solar programs and are not allowing more people to join them. Others are reducing the payment to each participant and continuing to keep the doors open for new participants.
NOTE: During the 2016 Legislative Session in Olympia, HB 2346 was introduced to address the problem of declining incentives and to keep adoption of solar moving forward. HB 2346 passed the House but did not pass the Senate. It would have raised the cap allowing utilities to spend up to 2% of taxable sales on solar incentives. It also would have created a new incentive program at lower rates to help continue the amazing growth of solar in our state.
The Washington Production Incentive is the primary reason why the growth of solar in WA has been so strong in recent years. Click to view a chart showing the number of solar systems added each year from 2005 to 2015, courtesy of WSU Energy Office.
Click to view the Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Incentive Payment Program sheet provided by the Washington State Department of Revenue.
List of equipment approved for “Made in Washington” Renewable Energy Systems Cost Recovery Incentive payments. Click to view list.
Snohomish County PUD, Chelan PUD and possibly others offer local incentives for home-owners and businesses who go solar. Inquire with your utility to find out if they offer any unique solar incentives. Here is a link to a comprehensive list of PUDs and utilities in Washington state.
Net metering allows system owners to receive credit for excess electricity produced by their system. Net-metered systems that produce more electricity than needed are credited for the excess production at retail electric rates on the next month’s utility bill. Credits carry forward month to month for a year period ending annually on April 30. Remaining credits are zeroed out on May 1 with no payment to the customer. Click for more information.
For businesses – MACRS Depreciation of Solar Energy property
The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is a method of depreciation for some tangible property for tax purposes. Qualifying solar energy equipment is eligible for a cost recovery period of five years. The market certainty provided by MACRS has been found to be a significant driver of private investment for the solar industry and other energy industries. For equipment on which an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) or a 1603 Treasury Program grant is claimed, the owner must reduce the project’s depreciable basis by one-half the value of the 30% ITC. This means the owner is able to deduct 85 percent of his or her tax basis. The amount of the project cost that is eligible for a Bonus Depreciation is based upon the year of installation.
Special thanks to NW SEED for its contribution to the information found on this page.
Disclaimer: The information presented on the Solar Washington web site provides an unofficial overview of financial incentives and other policies. It does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance, and it should not be used as the only source of information when making purchasing decisions, investment decisions or tax decisions, or when executing other binding agreements. Please refer to the individual contact provided in each summary or linked information to verify that a specific financial incentive or other policy applies to your project.
While the Solar Washington staff strives to provide the best information possible, Solar Washington make no representations or warranties, either express or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of the information. Solar Washington disclaims all liability of any kind arising out of your use or misuse of the information contained or referenced on Solar Washington Web pages. Page Here
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