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Hundreds of mayors urge Congress to extend renewable investment tax credit

Mayors from 230 U.S. cities in an Oct. 22 letter urged members of Congress to extend the 30% investment tax credit for solar power projects before the federal incentive begins to phase down in 2020.

The Solar Energy Industries Association collected signatures from mayors across the nation as a part of its lobbying effort to extend the tax credit, which the association has called one of the most important federal policies to spur development of solar power generation.

As it stands, the tax credit drops to 26% for projects that commence construction in 2020, 22% in 2021 and to 10% of eligible project costs thereafter. The mayors' letter said that since 2006 the tax credit has created more than 200,000 jobs and $140 billion in private investment.

"Nationally, solar energy is an American success story," the letter said. "There are now more than 2 million solar installations, and 'solar installer' is ranked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as one of the fastest growing jobs in the country. More jobs and lower energy costs are good for everyone, from people in the smallest towns to the largest cities."

The mayors urged lawmakers to pass either the House or Senate versions of the Renewable Energy Extension Act. The bills, which are identical, would extend the tax credit by five years. Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, in July introduced the House version of the bill, H.R. 3961, which has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. It has 49 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, in July introduced the Senate version of the bill, S.2289, which has moved on to the Committee on Finance. That version has 17 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

The Solar Energy Industries Association in 2019 has so far disclosed $540,000 in federal lobbying expenditures, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2018, the association spent $920,000 on lobbying Congress and federal agencies, according to the database. In July, the association, with support from hundreds of companies, sent a similar letter to Congress warning that the loss of tax incentives would threaten economic growth.

The mayors' push to extend the ITC reflects the fact that cities have been advancing renewable energy policies in a period of inaction from a divided Congress and under a presidential administration that has actively supported fossil fuels. Earlier this month, the American Council on Renewable Energy released a white paper that said there is growing support on Capital Hill for new technology-neutral tax credits for carbon-free generation. The paper said that such incentives, alongside a high-penetration federal renewable energy standard, "could attract more capital to renewable energy investment, lower project costs, and help the United States meet its climate goals."