Behind The Curve On Incentives For Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency
According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency (DSIRE), West Virginia is way behind the curve when it comes to providing financial incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, compared to surrounding states.
Let's start with renewable energy. Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia each offer an average of approximately 21 financial incentives for varying forms of renewable energy.
West Virginia has three.
West Virginia could go a long way in improving this situation by simply expanding some of its existing tax provisions to include solar power, instead of just wind. The state's property tax incentive lowers the tax base on utility-owned wind turbines to as little as 25 percent of fair market value. The corporate exemption reduces business and occupations (B&O) tax from 40 to 12 percent of generating capacity for wind turbines. Both of these should include solar farms, as well.
The situation does not get any better when it comes to promoting energy efficiency. Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia each offer an average of approximately 29 financial incentives for varying forms of energy efficiency.
West Virginia has two.
West Virginia's two incentives for energy efficiency - a "tax holiday" on Energy Star products during September and November and an appliance replacement rebate funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) - are both merely temporary measures. The state has no long-term programs in place to promote energy efficiency.
The state would be wise to model a program after Maryland's ambitious Project Sunburst, which seeks to equip numerous public buildings throughout the state with renewable energy systems, creating numerous jobs and saving immense taxpayer money in the long run by trimming the operating budgets of various schools, offices, and libraries for years, perhaps decades to come. This is exactly the kind of creative, Keynesian economic policy the state needs to stop the bleeding in the labor market and get West Virginians back to work.
Granted, when it comes to the private sector, tax credits alone won't change the business climate. (And some of the discrepancy above is due to other state's private utility companies offering rebate programs, while West Virginia's offer none.) But when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency - components of a burgeoning economic sector that can create new jobs, safe public and private money, and protect West Virginia's environment - state policymakers should take any and all measures to play catch-up.