A Tax Credit Program That Doesn’t Exist Anymore Keeps Causing Problems

News broke earlier this week that a former Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) employee pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges following an Oregon Department of Justice Investigation into the agency. The former employee had been an administrator in the department’s now-defunct Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) Program. He admitted to abusing his position to garner $291,000 in kickbacks over 3 years, from mid-2012 to early 2015.

This is the latest development in ODOE’s efforts to clean up the agency following 2015 revelations of problems in BETC Program. The news does not reflect ODOE’s culture or values, but rather that its efforts to bring full transparency to past problems are working. ODOE requested the DOJ investigation in 2015, collaborated closely with investigators, and is continuing to do so.

The BETC Program, where the problems occurred, was sunset in 2014. None of the wrongdoing that came light yesterday or before were associated with the Residential Energy Tax Credit Program (RETC), which helps homeowners install rooftop solar, and is scheduled to sunset in December 2017. The Department of Administrative Services found in a 2016 report that “The RETC credit currently functions relatively well.”

However, in support of legislators’ efforts to start with a clean slate, OSEIA is part of a working group that has agreed to support a new solar tax credit to replace the RETC program as it is allowed to sunset (see the policy update for more details).

Despite its growth, solar is still an emerging industry that needs some incentives to help homeowners install systems. We are gratified that legislators recognize the need for continued incentives for solar.