What is Utah doing to promote clean energy? Officials address energy summit

LEIA LARSEN | Standard-Examiner

When it comes to energy production, Utah occasionally gets a bad rap. But at Weber State’s Intermountain Sustainability Summit this week, state officials were on hand to explain what, exactly, is being done to promote renewables.

From the explosion in rooftop solar to big efforts in retrofitting inefficient buildings, state energy programs and incentives appear to be rippling up and down the Wasatch Front and beyond.

“(There’s a) boom in solar energy development in the state right now, and it really can only be described that way,” said Jeff Barrett with the Governor’s Office of Energy Development.

That boom largely comes from state tax incentives, and Barrett has numbers to make his case.

When he first started working for the governor in 2011, his office received 250 to 400 applications a year from people applying for renewable energy system tax credits. By 2013, his office received around 1,000 applications. By the 2015 tax year, his office saw more tax credit applications in six weeks than they had the entire year of 2014.

“We’ve seen exponential growth in the last 18 months, and we’ll continue to see see that growth in the next 18 months,” Barrett said.

For residential homes, the state’s tax credit returns 25 percent of the installation costs of renewable energy systems, up to $2,000. It also offers a 10 percent credit for commercial installations, up to $50,000. The credit applies to solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass projects, but Barrett said the vast majority of credits go to rooftop solar.

Along with the state tax credits, federal tax incentives and drastically reduced costs of panels have boosted solar’s popularity on the residential scale.

Utah’s tax credit incentive, however, it set to expire at the end of 2016.

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