Recent legislation providing solar tax credits for residential homeowners has allowed billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street financiers to profit at the expense of working class Americans. Solar corporations leasing panels to home owners, rather than selling, have reaped the financial benefit of solar tax credits intended for home owners to the tune of hundreds of millions. These tax credits to solar companies have boosted dividends for their shareholders at taxpayers’ expense, while panel-leasing home owners get no immediate financial benefit.
Worse. Solar tax credits discriminate against lower income communities. Group housing, where many lower income families reside, cannot install residential solar panels, and are therefore not eligible from the get-go for these special tax credits.
Arizona is subsidizing the solar industry with $1.2 billion on residential solar, and not a dime goes to the state’s lowest income sectors – yet, another reason not to have discriminatory solar tax credits.
Further, after residential panels are installed at huge costs to taxpayers, the system of net metering goes to work, also discriminating against the working class. Owners of solar panels can buy power from the grid as needed, or ship surplus power back to the grid when they produce more than they use. Under net metering, solar panel owners, however, avoid paying for the service and repairs to maintain the grid. These costs to maintain the grid are then shifted to non-solar users, placing a higher financial burden on this group, resulting in a disproportionate share of the burden falling on the aforementioned lower income sectors.
In Arizona, taxpayer subsidized solar panel ownership has led to the adding of “environmental programs cost adjustment factor” and renewable energy fees on utility bills, raising financial burdens for all non-solar users, lower income families included. For example, the city of Scottsdale has a median family income of over $92,000. Just in the past 5 years, they have had over 1,200 solar installations, which are eligible for state and federal subsidies. In contrast, an area in south Phoenix with 29,000 residents and an average income of $41,000 has only 45 residential solar installations. This is just an example, but the statistics are undeniable: Taxpayer subsidies go to wealthier communities by a factor of 26 times more than lower income communities.
Regressive solar tax credits should end immediately. Why have we chosen one industry over another? And worse, we’ve chosen a discriminatory industry that keeps lower income communities down by unfairly forcing them to pay for others solar installation and operation. Under any sun, these policies are just plain wrong.
Former Executive Director – North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce