Impacts of Federal Tax Credit Extensions on Renewable Deployment and Power Sector Emissions

Trieu Mai, Eric Lantz, Wesley Cole, Benjamin Sigrin, Cara Marcy

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Federal tax credits for renewable energy (RE) have served as one of the primary financial incentives for RE deployment over the last two decades in the United States. In December 2015, the wind power production tax credit and solar investment tax credits were extended for five years as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. This report explores the impact that these tax credit extensions might have on future RE capacity deployment and power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The analysis examines the impacts of the tax credit extensions under two distinct natural gas price futures as natural gas prices have been key factors in influencing the economic competitiveness of new RE development. The analysis finds that, in both natural gas price futures, RE tax credit extensions can spur RE capacity investments at least through the early 2020s and can help lower emissions from the U.S. electricity system. More specifically, the RE tax credit extensions are estimated to drive a net peak increase of 48-53 GW in installed RE capacity in the early 2020s -- longer term impacts are less certain. In the longer term after the tax credits ramp down, greater RE capacity is driven by a combination of assumed RE cost declines, rising fossil fuel prices, and other clean energy policies such as the Clean Power Plan. The tax credit extension-driven acceleration in RE capacity development can reduce fossil fuel-based generation and lower electric sector CO2 emissions. Cumulative emissions reductions over a 15-year period (spanning 2016-2030) as a result of the tax credit extensions are estimated to range from 540 to 1420 million metric tonnes CO2. These findings suggest that tax credit extensions can have a measurable impact on future RE deployment and electric sector CO2 emissions under a range of natural gas price futures.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages42
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-65571


  • energy policy
  • federal tax credits
  • investment tax credit (ITC)
  • ITC
  • production tax credit
  • PTC
  • renewable energy (RE)
  • tax credit
  • tax incentives


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