From local rebates to federal tax incentives, there’s lots of money available for going green.
By Brandi Clark Burton
If you are like many people, you’ve probably thought, “I would like to do something to be more environmentally friendly, but I’m not sure what would be helpful, and it probably costs a lot.”
The upfront costs can be intimidating, but implementing sustainability initiatives almost always saves money in the long run. Good news! There’s never been a better time to go green, and there is a lot of money available from local, state and federal governments to incentivize you to conserve energy and water, produce clean energy and switch to electric and alternative fuel transportation.
The headline opportunity at this point is solar. Because it adds to the capacity of our electric grid, usually when there is high demand, there is support from all corners. You can get three different benefits to put one of these money-making machines on your home, business or house of worship.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the Federal government will provide a tax credit to cover 30% of the cost of solar system materials and installation (and even an electrical main panel upgrade, if that is required to make it work).
- Austin Energy rewards homeowners, nonprofits and businesses both for installing rooftop or ground-mount solar and the energy it produces.
- They provide a flat $2,500 stipend for residential systems, $0.90/watt for nonprofits and houses of worship and three tiers of commercial incentives based on the size. *You must also complete a short solar education course for the rebate.
- On top of that, Austin Energy will pay, in the form of a bill credit, the current calculated value of solar (presently $.0991/kilowatt-hour) for all the energy your solar system produces. The benefit levels drop as certain levels of participation are reached, and there is no guarantee that these incentives will last, so the sooner the better.
- The state of Texas also helps by not increasing your property tax valuation, even though having solar panels increases the value of your home.
- Home performance with Energy Star projects like home weatherization, ductwork and new A/C and heat pump equipment are eligible for Austin Energy rebates averaging $1,800, and/or low-interest financing starting at 1.99%. You can also earn rebates and incentives when you install smart thermostats and enroll in Austin Energy’s voluntary Power Partner program.
- Energy-efficient home improvements can also earn you a tax deduction of up to $1,200 per year, with limits on doors ($250 per door and $500 total), windows ($600) and home energy audits ($150).
Upgraded Heating and Cooling
- Tax deductions of $2,000 per year are possible for qualified heat pumps, biomass stoves or biomass boilers.
Switching to Electric Driving
From E-bikes to EV cars and trucks, Austin Energy and the IRS are making it easier to have your next transportation be electric.
- At the same time, auto manufacturers and dealers are offering huge discounts on electric vehicles, you can currently get a Federal tax credit of up to $7,500 to purchase or lease a qualified plug-in electric car or truck.
- Austin Energy offers rebates to purchase a qualifying E-bike, scooter, moped, motorcycle or any other electric two- or three-wheel vehicle. Depending on the purchase price and income level, the rebates can be anywhere from $200 to $1,300.
- Most people charge up at home, at least part of the time, and Austin Energy will kick in as much as $1,200 for a home charging station, in the form of a rebate.
- For less than the cost of two gallons of gas a month ($4.17/month) you can have unlimited access to 1,000-plus local Austin Energy level-2 charging ports in the Plug-In EVerywhere public charging network. Bonus: The whole network is powered with 100% renewable Green Choice Energy.
- Austin Energy also offers fast-charging at 25-plus fast chargers, now available and conveniently located near major transit routes. Charge up and get on your way for only $0.21 per minute. Plug-in to plug-out.
EcoConcept in Action
Be energy aware when choosing your home
Whenever you buy a home served by Austin Energy and located within Austin city limits, or rent from a multifamily property, you are required to have access to information about the energy consumption, made possible by the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) ordinance. Watch out for high-energy-use properties, or select them with a plan to take advantage of the Austin Energy incentives for energy efficiency improvements that reduce energy use.
Resources for School-based Sustainability Projects
If your school has a project idea for going green on your campus, you can submit a proposal to the Bright Green Future Grants program. This competitive program provides funding for school-based sustainability projects up to $3,000. Applications are accepted annually at the start of the school year. Start developing the vision, team and proposal so you are ready to apply at the beginning of next school year.
Past projects have included composting systems, rainwater harvesting, organic gardens, rain gardens, bicycle academies, wildlife habitats, and campus EcoAudits. Projects selected to receive funding actively engage students and community members with hands-on involvement and learning.
EcoBrandi is a huge advocate for the use of green energy and green businesses. One of her many hats is helping people get solar for their homes and businesses. Reach out if you need some guidance to firstname.lastname@example.org.