Approximately $73 billion to be invested in renewable energy sources thanks to federal tax credit program extension, according to report.

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Lawmakers have agreed to breathe new live into clean, renewable energy by extending for five years tax credit programs that help make solar and wind installations affordable, according to a Bloomberg Business report.

The federal program, which was set to expire in 2016, offers tax credits to homeowners and businesses installing wind, solar and other renewable technologies. The extension creates approximately $73 billion in new investment and allows for 8 million additional homes to become powered by renewables, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance press release.

Jeff Georg, president of Ascom Inc. in Dover, said he's "hopefully optimistic" this extension will help drive more solar installation in York and throughout Pennsylvania.

"We've actually been fielding a few phone calls this year (from people looking into solar installation) in anticipation of the credits expiring," Georg said. "I'm wondering if this might actually delay that interest."

Ascom was one of the first companies in the state to become certified to install solar panels, according to Georg, and the industry saw a short boom beginning in 2009 when the federally funded Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar Program provided $100 million in rebates for solar electricity and solar hot water programs for homeowners and small businesses.

That money lasted less than three years, though, and the solar market subsequently suffered locally, Georg previously said.

"There had been some hope (for Gov.) Tom Wolf's administration to (provide additional funds) for that program in this year's budget, but that obviously hasn't happened," Georg said.

Lawmakers have been at a stalemate over the state budget for nearly six months.

Still, Georg said the federal tax credit program is a great incentive for small businesses and homeowners, and he hopes people who had shied away from looking into solar energy due to high costs years ago will take a second look.

"There's still a huge misconception about the cost of solar," he said. "Five years ago, when the media was all over this stuff, prices were twice as high as they are now. If anyone does have continued interest, it would behoove them to look into the prices now."

The costs of installing wind and solar power have dropped by more than 90 percent since the original tax credits took effect, according to Bloomberg's report, but coal and natural gas are still cheaper options in most areas around the country.

Bloomberg's experts predict solar and wind will be the cheapest forms of new electricity in many states by the time the new tax credits expire, the report states.

Congress is expected to vote on the omnibus appropriations bill which includes the extension later this week, according to Associated Press reports. The bill would also lift a 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports, according to Bloomberg's report.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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