The Lowdown on Clean Energy Incentives

January 26, 2022

We’ve written a lot about the financial benefits of solar, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency (spoiler alert: there are a ton of them). Speeding the transition to a clean energy future means getting these game-changing tools in the hands of as many people as possible, as fast as possible. One way to help do that is through financial incentives that make the initial purchase of these products easier. 

A plethora of tax credits, utility incentives and other rebates for electric vehicles, solar panels and energy efficiency make it easier to transition to a clean energy future. Let’s break down a sampling of federal and state incentives and how to use them.

Electric vehicles

The federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for most new electric vehicles. Many new EVs are price below $40,000, which equates to nearly 20% off the sticker price. This dollar amount does decrease for each manufacturers as it hits certain sales thresholds, and at the time of this initial post (early 2022) some of the more well-known names like Tesla and GM no longer qualify for the credit. However, the vast majority of car makers such as Ford, Hyundai and Kia still qualify for the full $7,500 incentive.  

Almost every state offers some incentive to purchase an EV,  (check out both of these resources here and here to see what your state offers) from tax exemptions in such places as Washington state and Washington, D.C., to cash rebates in such states as California, Massachusetts and Oregon. These incentives range in value based on a person’s income and/or the size of the purchased electric vehicle’s battery. Additionally, many utility companies across the country offer cash rebates for EV owners who want to install Level 2 chargers in their homes.

So how are these credits and incentives applied when you’re at the dealership ready to buy your EV? You have to pay for the EV’s sticker price upfront — in cash or through a loan — and apply for those cash rebates after your purchase. 

At tax time, Uncle Sam would knock off $7,500 from your federal taxes due. If you don’t owe that much in taxes, the credit rolls over to the following tax year. For state tax exemptions, you either wouldn’t have to pay a sales tax at the time of purchase or you wouldn’t have to pay other types of car taxes, depending on the type of exemption your home state offers.

What about would-be EV purchasers that aren’t able to take advantage of tax credits (which give the most benefit to households that have a large tax burden)? The Biden Administration proposed big changes to this program in its Build Back Better plan — changes that would help address that inequity and encourage the widespread adoption of EVs. 

Among the proposed changes, it would make the tax credit refundable – meaning you’d get back any money left over after the IRS applies the EV credit to your tax bill. Used electric vehicles also would be eligible for the tax credit. And the credit would go up from $7,500 to $10,500 specifically for EVs made in the U.S. by union workers. 

Though the Build Back Better Act failed to pass the Senate, Democrats in Congress want to move forward with the bill’s climate portion as a standalone climate bill. So there’s still some hope the Biden Administration will revamp the federal tax credit program for EVs and make it more accessible to individuals and families who earn low to middle incomes.


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Solar panels

This year (2022) is the last year people can get a 26% federal tax credit on the cost of home solar panels. Starting in 2023, the tax credit goes down to 22%. The tax credit for solar panels works in the same way as the tax credit for EVs. You pay for solar panels upfront or finance it through a loan. When it’s time to file your taxes, this nonrefundable tax credit lowers your tax bill for the tax year when the solar panels were installed. If the credit for your solar panels is more than you owe in taxes, then the tax credit carries over to the next tax year.

Several states also offer incentives to install residential solar. Just like with EVs, these incentives vary from state to state. In Oregon, the state is offering rebates for both solar panels and battery storage. It pays the rebates to the solar contractors who then pass on the savings to the consumers. In Rhode Island, the state offers a 10% to 25% subsidy through a special grant program. In other states, utility companies or cities offer these financial incentives. 

You can search for these financial incentives by starting with your local utility company or your city’s or state’s energy department – or start with this database.

Energy efficiency

The federal government offers a range of tax credits for energy efficient home equipment and improvements. You could get up to a $500 tax credit for insulating your home or up to a $200 tax credit for replacing your drafty windows with Energy Star-certified ones. 

You can pair these federal tax credits with cash incentives or discounts offered by many nonprofits, collective groups and utility companies throughout the country. For example, National Grid, a utility company that operates in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, offers home energy assessments and steep discounts – up to 75% – for energy efficiency improvements. The Energy Trust of Oregon, a nonprofit, offers cash rebates for a variety of energy saving solutions (e.g. new windows, insulation, heating and cooling). 

Even without subsidies, investing in electric vehicles, solar panels and energy efficiency saves money in the long run. These incentives, however, do make the transition easier, particularly because many utility companies and nonprofits have a mission to serve low- to middle-income individuals and families. These clean energy transitions not only benefit our pocketbooks, but also benefit our collective health by reducing carbon emissions and speeding the transition to a clean energy future.


Solar and storage can help hospitals save money, and lives

October 27, 2021

It may not surprise you to learn that the healthcare sector is one of the largest carbon emitters in the country. It accounts for 10% of the nation’s carbon emissions and 9% of the nation’s non-greenhouse air pollutants that harm health. And that’s ironic for community assets focused on health. More frequent and intense climate-related disasters threaten the ability of hospitals, in particular, to take care of their patients. 

We don’t have to look to the future to imagine what those threats would look like. Several hospitals across the country and U.S. territories have already lived through dire situations during wildfires and hurricanes in places such as California, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico

Some hospitals had to evacuate. Other healthcare workers had to pump ventilators by hand to keep their patients alive. During Hurricane Maria, blocked roads prevented doctors and people who needed care from getting to hospitals. If it was difficult for doctors to get to hospitals, you can imagine that transporting diesel in the middle of a crisis would also be tough, expensive and unsafe. These disasters underscore the risks of relying on fossil-fuel backup generators and the need to increase the energy resilience of hospitals.

These disasters underscore the risks of relying on fossil-fuel backup generators and the need to increase the energy resilience of hospitals. 

Renewables = Resilience

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Health care systems can bear the brunt better by enhancing their resilience with solar power and large capacity battery storage. (In case you missed it, we wrote about the promise of battery storage earlier this year). 

More and more hospital administrators recognize the big role hospitals could play in reducing emissions. With solar power, hospitals reduce their direct emissions generated by fossil fuels – and the social cost of carbon along with it. “Eliminating our carbon footprint is one of the most effective ways we can contribute to a healthier environment and improve conditions for health and equity,” said Yvette Radford, vice president of External and Community Affairs at Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

A rooftop solar panel array on a Kaiser Permanente building in Santa Clara, CA.

In 2020, Kaiser Permanente became the first health system in the United States to become carbon neutral. It achieved this goal through a combination of different investments, including in solar power. The U.S. Department of Energy noted in a 2015 report that one of the largest technical barriers for hospitals to install solar panels is insufficient roof space due to medical equipment. Kaiser worked around this challenge by installing solar panels over building garages, which created “carports” with EV-charging stations. 

Hospitals have some of the largest energy demands because they run critical, high-tech equipment around the clock. According to the DOE, that means they are more vulnerable to rising fuel prices and price volatility than other commercial sectors. Investing in solar can protect against those rising or volatile prices. 

The DOE also recommends improving energy efficiency before or in conjunction with investments in renewable energy. As of September 2020, Kaiser also reduced its demand for energy by 8% since 2013 by improving energy efficiency throughout its facilities. In all, renewable energy powers Kaiser for about half of its energy needs, saving the healthcare system millions of dollars. 

Pairing solar with battery storage is critical to boosting resilience. Together they supply power during power outages or in the midst of natural disasters when the power grid goes down. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, for example, a children’s hospital and several fire stations continue to rely on solar panels and battery storage to run its critical equipment any time the power grid is down. These solar panels and battery storage were installed within a couple of weeks after Hurricane Maria struck the country in 2017. Solar power and battery storage allow the fire stations and children’s hospital to keep life-saving equipment powered on when it most needs it. 

Solar power and battery storage allow the fire stations and children’s hospital to keep life-saving equipment powered on when it most needs it. 

But would solar panels hold up during severe weather? In North Carolina, solar farms were put to the test during Hurricane Florence. They survived the hurricane’s power wind and rainfall with minimal damage. This is a significant finding in the state with the second largest capacity of solar power in the country. 

As climate related disasters increase in frequency and intensity, hospitals can position themselves to save money, be more resilient and reduce emissions that threaten our collective health. 


The deal with LED lighting

March 31, 2017

So what’s so awesome about LEDs?

Well they’re much more affordable now, and they last a long time. With average usage, 1 LED light bulb can last upwards of 40 years, saving you about 25 replacements of your standard incandescent bulb (that’s that same technology we’ve been using for the last…hundred years).

Also they’re way more efficient. Incandescent bulbs on average release 90% of their energy as heat. LED efficiency is constantly improving, but right now, on average, they use about 75% less energy than your average incandescent bulb.

So widespread use of LEDs has a huge potential impact on our energy savings here in the U.S. The D.O.E. estimates that potential electricity savings equal to the output of 44 large power plants. That’s about 30 billion dollars worth of energy in today’s prices.


  1. “LED Lighting”, U.S. Department of Energy,
  2. “How Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Compare with Traditional Incandescents”, U.S. Department of Energy,
  3. “Lighting Basics”,