Federal incentives are poised to turbocharge Austin’s clean-tech sector.
By Brandi Clark Burton, Graphics courtesy of Brandi Clark Burton
Do any of these categories fit you or someone you know?
- People who want to drive electric vehicles
- Homeowners interested in a home energy audit, solar power and/or batteries, air-conditioning, heat pumps or water heaters
- Interested in community solar programs
- Nonprofits and houses of worship that own their buildings
- Commercial businesses and tech companies
- State, local and tribal governments
- Clean tech innovators and entrepreneurs
- Job seekers in clean tech and energy efficiency
If so, then you (and they) will be interested in the exciting details within these boring-sounding pieces of legislation.
- Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)
- Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)
- CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS)
These landmark investments are driving the clean tech adoption curve, from early adopters to early majority, by allocating $500 billion in incentives to increase the use of clean energy, reduce waste and grow the U.S. green economy while helping us reach our national and local climate goals. They offer financial assistance for individuals, businesses and nonprofits to adopt energy-efficient appliances, conduct home energy audits, upgrade energy systems and invest in solar panels, battery storage and clean vehicles.
Technology Adoption Curve
Of particular interest is the Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC). These tax incentives ensure a minimum of 30% reimbursement for solar panels, design and installation costs, batteries and financing, benefiting homeowners, business owners, nonprofits, houses of worship and tribes.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to a sustainable and just energy future for all. They have priorities around justice, equity, inclusion and accessibility with a commitment to provide equitable access to wealth-building opportunities, including access to good jobs and business and contracting opportunities.
For Austin, the state of Texas and the nation, this will mean more green jobs and more innovations in deployed solar, wind, energy storage (batteries), EV charging infrastructure and energy efficiency. It could also help us achieve our goal of reaching net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, codified in the Austin City Council-adopted Austin Climate Equity Plan.
Austin Energy is working toward 100% carbon-free generation by 2035. Last year they achieved 50% power generation from renewable sources including wind, solar and biomass. Factoring in the energy we get from nuclear, we already have 77% carbon-free energy.
Solar has recently been credited with keeping the Texas electric grid flowing with energy during these record heat and consumption days. Austin’s generation portfolio has 116 MW of distributed solar (~70% residential, ~30% commercial). Tim Harvey at Austin Energy said that even with our existing grid, we could more than triple the amount of distributed solar.
It is anticipated that the amount of distributed (rooftop) solar will be boosted significantly by property owners taking advantage of all the incentives. On top of the federal tax rebates, Austin Energy currently offers a $2,500 rebate for its customers who complete their solar education course and install a qualifying solar photovoltaic (PV) system on their home.
The state also offers a renewable energy system property tax exemption, meaning 100% of the appraised value of your solar-powered system is exempt from your property taxes.
Evaluate if solar is viable for you. If you own the property and your roof is mostly free of shade most of the day, especially on the South facing roof (west is second best) you might be a good candidate to take advantage of the solar rebates.
- Austin Energy Solar rebates and guidelines
- Homeowners Guide to Federal Tax Credits for Solar PV
- Federal Solar Tax Credits for Businesses
ELECTRIC VEHICLES & CHARGING
Austin added a record number of EV drivers last year, bringing the cumulative EV registrations to 28,162. Those drivers can access more than 1,500 Plug-In Austin charging ports at station hosts all around town, including a growing number of fast chargers. Nearly 3,000 home charging station rebates have been issued as well.
Austin Energy’s Plug-in EVerywhere offers subscription access for only $4.17 a month ($2 per hour for non-subscribers) and 30 Plug-in Fast DC fast chargers for $0.21 per minute.
This year Austin Energy increased its rebates on e-rides (electric bike, scooter, moped, motorcycle and other electric two- or three-wheel vehicles).
EcoConcept in Action: Investigate Buying an EV or E-Ride
When making your next mobility purchase, consider an EV vehicle, e-bike or scooter. They provide a quiet and smooth, yet peppy drive, with low maintenance needs, and a lower operating cost than a gas engine, all while being better for our local air quality and the planet’s climate.
Austin Energy’s extremely helpful site ev.austinenergy.com not only explains the available rebates, location of chargers but also displays a daily feed of all EV’s currently available at local dealers.
CLEAN TECH JOBS
Training the next generation to lead these industries that will grow the green economy is essential. Four local initiatives helping younger people in clean tech careers are:
- Pathways to Clean Energy Careers placement program by Solar Austin is meant to overcome systemic barriers in local solar/green energy hiring practices. They have educated over 400 students on solar career opportunities and placed over 50 students in industry roles.
- Tesla Start Manufacturing at ACC 14-week program for recent high school grads to enter manufacturing education-to-internship-to-job.
- Clean Tech Fellows semester-long program run by CleanTX to engage Texas McCombs MBA students in exploring careers focused on a sustainable low-carbon future.
- Austin Civilan Conservation Corps green workforce development program that prioritizes equity in green workforce development and expands the narrative of green vocation.
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.