A peer-reviewed economic impact study of Hawaii’s solar tax credit revealed that for every $1 the state invests in its commercial PV tax credit, it gets $2.67 back in sales tax revenue.
“We all knew it was good,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, the environmental nonprofit that commissioned the study. “But I think we were all kind of taken aback by just how good it really is.”
The study found that for every $1 credit, $7.15 stays in Hawaii and creates $55.03 in additional sales. Additionally, the state gains 2.7 jobs a year for every $1 invested in the solar credit.
“That’s a pretty good return,” Mikulina said.. “Even if it was just parity – I mean breaking even would be pretty good for the state, too. But this is essentially a money maker.”
Blue Planet commissioned the study because the 35 percent tax credit has come under scrutiny recently as lawmakers have started discussing it as an extravagant expense.
“They sounded the alarm bell saying this is a real loss to the state,” Mikulina said. “We knew that was only half the equation. We wanted to do a good job of telling the real story.”
The organization hired former University of Hawaii economist Dr. Thomas Loudat to conduct the study. He’s the same economist the state hired to first study the solar energy credit in 2002.
“To be fair, we do have a clear agenda,” Mikulina said of Blue Planet. “But we wanted to make sure this was robust and thorough enough we could really stand behind the numbers.”
In addition to hiring the same economist the state used for its study 11 years ago, Blue Planet had the study peer-reviewed by a panel of respected economists.
“We did have to change some things,” Mikulina. “We actually revised some numbers down.”
And the results still show the credit has a strong economic impact in the state.
Hawaii has the highest electricity prices in the country and relies heavily on imported oil to generate power.
Tesoro recently announced it would close a refinery in Hawaii that employs 200 people. That means the state will have to import more oil. But it also means 200 people will lose their jobs, Mikulina said.
It has been big news in the state. But there are thousands of jobs in the solar industry, which is currently growing. It’s estimated that 15 to 20 percent of all construction jobs in Hawaii today are in the solar industry.
Mikulina said he hopes the economic impact study could be enough to persuade lawmakers that the tax credit is a valuable economic tool and not just an expense.