The Hawaii Department of Taxation recently released its latest report on state tax credits claimed for the last year for which they have full records (2016).

From 2011-2016, Hawaii’s Renewable Energy Technologies Income Tax Credit was the largest single tax credit claimed, though as a decreasing percentage year to year.

Over this six-year period, Hawaii tax filers claimed a total $673,301,000 in RETITC dollars, peaking for 2012 at 48.4 percent of total tax credits.

For 2012, $179,018,000 was claimed compared to $85,799,000 for 2016. In each subsequent year after 2012 both the gross dollars and percentage figures have gone down.

Photovoltaic PV solar at Daniel Inouye Airport.

Photovoltaic panels at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Hawaii is a leader on solar energy. thanks in part to tax credits.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The total amount of state tax credits claimed 2011-2016 equals $1,876,708,300. The RETITC accounted for 35.9 percent of that.

As a long-time player in and advocate for the solar industry, I’m of course biased in my belief that the cost of the reduced revenue to the state’s general fund is offset by other substantial accrued benefits to the people of Hawaii.

But the bias is based in data-driven reality.

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The installation of hundreds of megawatts of installed solar capacity has reduced the importation of fossil fuels by millions of gallons for a state that uses more oil in our power plants than the entire rest of the country.

Thanks to the strong state support of solar, in addition to the federal Investment Tax Credit, we have by far the highest per capita number of solar thermal and solar electric systems in the nation.

Thousands of construction jobs have been created with the tax.

We are leading the U.S. in the integration of high levels of distributed generation solar and battery storage into our electric grids and pushing the boundaries of technological innovation.

Thousands of construction jobs have been created.

Finally, the state’s tangible financial support encouraging the adoption of solar energy has pushed us to the forefront in the new frontier of deploying cost-effective and cutting edge energy storage on both sides of the utility meter.

When it comes to tax credits to promote renewable energy development, it’s understandable that there would be discussion and debate on whether we can afford them, whether they’re justifiable and appropriate in light of other competing priorities for the always limited pot of government funds.

That’s all a welcome part of the political process. And of all the state tax credits used to support beneficial causes and industries, the RETITC should continue to rank high if we are to achieve the renewable energy goals that all stakeholders agree upon.

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About the Author

  • Marco Mangelsdorf
    Marco Mangelsdorf has been in the renewable energy field for nearly four decades years and is president of ProVision Solar, a Hilo-based solar company designing and installing PV projects across the islands since 2000. He has taught energy politics at UH Hilo and the University of California and is a director and secretary of the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative which seeks to convert the Big Island's electric utility to a coop.