Looming BETC reform causes confusion in renewables
By Erik Siemers
Uncertainty over the future of Oregon’s most popular tax credit for green businesses has forced several renewable energy developers to hold off on new projects.
“I honestly feel you’d be doing your customer a disservice to take a contract between now and March 1,” said Alan Hickenbottom, principal of Tanner Creek Energy, a Portland-based developer of commercial solar energy systems.
State legislators next month are expected to debate potential reforms to the Business Energy Tax Program, commonly referred to as the BETC program.
The program is designed to promote the growth of renewable energy in Oregon by offering tax credits worth up to 50 percent of the cost of a project spread across five years.
The program is both vilified and vaunted. Proponents laud it for making Oregon a leader in clean energy development while opponents say its uncontrollable growth has put a strain on a state already facing financial constraints.
State Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat, said the program is expected to cost Oregon more than $167 million in lost revenue during the current biennium — a “ten-fold” increase of initial expectations.
Further clouding the debate is a Jan. 26 vote on two tax hikes. If voters reject both measures, the state will face a $733 million budget shortfall.
BETC supporters fear the tax measures, should they fail, will be the death knell for the tax credits.
“I hate to say it, but yes, I’m pretty sure if these ballot measures fail it will be the death of a lot of great things in Oregon,” said Jamie Hogue, a field representative in Oregon with Climate Solutions, an Olympia, Wash.-based environmental nonprofit group.
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