04/19/2017

Thanks For Giving Me Your Tax Money

Robert Bryce, Wall Street Journal

Now that tax day has passed, I must thank you, my fellow federal taxpayers. You all are the wind beneath my solar panels.

Pardon me for mixing energy metaphors, but it’s only appropriate that I express appreciation for the generous subsidy you provided for the 28-panel, four-array, 8,540-watt photovoltaic system I installed on my metal roof last year. Thanks to the investment tax credit, I slashed my 2016 federal tax bill by $7,758.

Before going further, let me be clear: I’m opposed to all energy subsidies—unless, of course, I’m the one collecting them. And thanks to the incentives for rooftop solar, I’ve snared three subsidies.

In addition to the federal subsidy, Austin Energy (our city-owned utility) paid $6,593 of the cost of my system. Thus, after subtracting local and federal subsidies, the net cost of my 8.54-kilowatt system was $18,100, or about $2.12 per watt of installed capacity. I’m also getting an ongoing subsidy that pays me far more for the electricity I produce than what other generators get in the Texas wholesale market.

My panels are producing about 12 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. In 2016, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the average wholesale price of electricity was $24.62 per megawatt-hour. But Austin Energy pays me $106 for each megawatt-hour my system produces. Therefore, I’m getting more than four times as much for my solar electricity as other generators in Texas. I get that price regardless of whether the grid needs the juice from my panels or not.

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