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Fate of solar tax credit bill unclear as deadline looms; SPIE urges fast action to protect progress

BELLINGHAM, WA, USA - 25 September 2008 - The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives each have approved extension of $18 billion in tax credits set to expire on 31 December for using renewable energy sources such as solar. The White House has said it supports the legislation. However, the credits are part of a larger tax-extenders bill requiring final reconciliation by the House, and Congress is scheduled to go into recess through the end of the year starting this Saturday.

While a vote could come as early as this afternoon, if Congress goes into recess this weekend without passing the Alternative Minimum Tax bill that includes the energy tax credits, a "lame duck" session called after the 4 November would be required to pass the bill prior before the new Congress is sworn in in January. Once the new Congress is sworn in, it would require starting at the very beginning once again to get the legislation moving.

"Quick action in approving these tax credits would help bolster the still-fragile renewable energy economy, and will keep vital research projects going," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

A study by Navigant Consulting released last week indicates that 440,000 permanent American jobs would be created by 2016 with the extension of the solar investment tax credit (ITC), and an estimated $232 billion in investments in the solar industry would be supported.

"There is no doubt that renewable energy is absolutely critical across several fronts including energy independence, the environment, jobs creation, technology leadership, export opportunities, and overall economic stimulus," said Gary D. Conley, Chairman and CEO of SolFocus, Inc., a provider of concentrator photovoltaic technology for solar energy systems. "An increasing number of companies are progressing these technologies toward grid parity - becoming competitive with petroleum, natural gas, and coal-fired utilities. Once this is achieved, subsidies will no longer be needed. However, to get to that point incentives are required. Each day of delay leaves the future of these advances in limbo, as critical investments are not being made."