The Green Building Chronicle reported yesterday that a bill restoring the solar energy tax credit has hit a dead-end in the Georgia legislature. The bill—HB 146—would have restored funding for the credits through 2014 and would have increased the total funds available for the credits from $2.5 million per year to $10 million per year for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Last year, it seemed like Georgia was turning a corner on its conservative approach to energy policies. First, there was the decision of the Public Service Commission announced that it approved an increase in the amount of solar energy purchased by Georgia Power—effectively doubling the amounts that had been allowed previously. Then, the citizens of Georgia voted for a constitutional amendment to allow state agencies to enter into energy savings performance contracts. It looked like Georgia was serious about reducing energy demands and increasing alternative energy production. So, what happened?

Some believe that the solar tax credits were re-prioritized because the legislature has been focused on proposals to make sweeping changes to the Georgia tax code in an effort to make Georgia more competitive in attracting businesses to move here while maintaining revenue needed for the budget.

Granted, that is a compelling issue for policy makers. But, if we believe that we must reform the tax code to entice businesses to come to Georgia, then isn’t it equally important to include tax credits that support and promote the businesses that are already here?

Georgia has a budding solar industry that includes solar manufacturers, installers and vendors. These businesses are here now—employing Georgians and paying taxes. As alternative energy becomes more prevalent, these companies will continue to grow and become an even more important part of our state economy. We want them to stay here and grow here. One way to support these businesses is by funding tax credits that promote their industry.

There is another good reason for the solar tax credits. Georgia has some of the greatest solar capacity of any state in the U.S. We should be a leader in solar energy production and a model for states trying to reduce energy costs and reliance upon fossil fuels. Instead, we lag behind states like Pennsylvania, which has used energy policies and tax credits to develop a highly successful solar energy program despite the fact that its solar capacity is significantly less than Georgia.

Does anyone see a downside to increasing solar energy production in Georgia?