Skip to main content
Two women meeting with laptop

Clean Energy Tax Incentives for Public Sector Entities

State, local, and tribal governments may benefit from clean energy tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act. Read on for details.
banner background

In 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes a host of tax incentives intended to accelerate investment in clean energy solutions in many sectors of the economy. State, local, and tribal governments that want to participate in “green” investments or projects may benefit from these incentives.

This article highlights some of the tax credits applicable to state, local, and tribal governments under the IRA, especially if your entity is considering investing in any of the following activities:

  • Building new energy-efficient buildings
  • Making improvements to existing facilities
  • Installing solar panels
  • Purchasing a new fleet of electric vehicles (for example buses, vans, delivery trucks, etc.)
  • Installing charging stations for electric vehicles

Many of these credits are available in two layers: 1) a base amount and 2) additional bonus credit amounts. One of the most pursued bonus credits is colloquially referred to as the “five times” bonus credit. A common way to qualify for the “five times” bonus credit is to meet the prevailing wage and apprenticeship (PWA) requirements, as applicable. The IRS initial guidance and the following proposed regulations were issued to help taxpayers comply with the PWA requirements. For certain credits, the amount of the credit can also increase if the project meets certain domestic content requirements for steel, iron, and manufactured products. An extra bonus credit on certain projects in an “energy community” may be claimed, and for certain wind and solar facilities a low-income bonus credit is possible depending on the situation.

Some of the tax credits noted below may be transferred or elected for “direct pay.” Tax-exempt entities, states and political subdivisions, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Indian tribal governments, Alaska Native Corporations, and rural electric cooperatives among others may elect to treat IRA tax credits for “direct pay,” which functions similar to a “refundable” tax credit. Taxable entities also have the option for the “direct pay” election for a limited number of credits. All other taxpayers have the option to transfer (aka sell) certain tax credits to unrelated third parties. Credits may only be transferred once.

With the direct pay option, many of these tax credits effectively result in “cash back” that help offset costs of the energy-efficient investments an organization is considering. View a detailed list of clean energy tax credits and more information on how state, local, and tribal governments can take advantage of these incentives.

Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for Energy Property

For projects placed in service prior to January 1, 2025, under Section 48, generally the IRA provides a “base” credit of 6% of qualified investment costs of a renewable energy project. Qualified fuel cell, solar, geothermal deposit, dynamic glass, small wind, energy storage, waste energy recovery, biogas, microgrid controllers, microturbines, specific ground heating or cooling property, and combined heat and power properties are eligible for this tax credit. There are specific rules for certain types of energy property that could affect this base 6% amount. Reach out to your Forvis Mazars advisor for more.

The credit amount can increase in the following ways:

  • Meeting the “five times” bonus credit requirements, by qualifying for one of the following:
    • Project maximum net output is less than one megawatt
    • Project begins construction prior to January 29, 2023
    • Project meets the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements
  • Additional bonus credit if the project meets certain domestic content requirements
  • Additional bonus credit if the property is in an “energy community”

Additional bonus credit for certain wind and solar projects depending on the specifics of the project. This means the maximum ITC can be as high as 70%.

For facilities placed in service after December 31, 2024, the Section 48E credit may apply for the project. Different rules apply when considering eligibility, so consideration of the placed-in-service date should be emphasized when modeling out future benefit of clean energy investments.

Here are some examples of what state, local, and tribal governments can invest in to take advantage of this opportunity:

  • Installing solar panels on the roof of your facility
  • Using energy-efficient batteries for energy storage
  • Updating your heating and power systems
  • Installing dynamic glass

State, local, and tribal governments may use the direct pay option and elect to receive payments equal to the credit amount. See our FORsights™ article, “Implications of the Inflation Reduction Act on Tax-Exempt Entities,” to learn more about how the ITC can benefit tax-exempt organizations.

Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC)

Under Section 45, facilities generating electricity for sale to unrelated parties from certain renewable electricity sources are potentially eligible for the PTC for 10 years after the project is placed in service. To qualify for the Section 45 credit, construction of the project must begin before January 1, 2025. After 2024, IRC Section 45Y takes its place for facilities that keep the greenhouse emissions rate at zero.

Similar to the ITC noted above, the credit amount could be impacted by whether the “five times bonus” credit applies, if the domestic content requirements are met, and if the project is located in an energy community. The base credit amount is adjusted annually for inflation. For 2023, if property was placed in service after December 31, 2021, the PTC as adjusted for inflation is 0.3 cents per kWh for electricity generated by landfill gas, open-loop biomass, municipal solid waste resources, and small irrigation power facilities, and up to 0.55 cents per kWh for electricity generated from wind, closed-loop biomass, solar and geothermal resources. These amounts can be increased by the five times bonus credits and other bonus credit amounts.

State, local, and tribal governments may elect to receive payments equal to the full amount of credits generated through the direct pay option for qualified facilities placed in service after December 31, 2022 and for which construction began before January 1, 2024. If the beginning of construction date is after 2023, while the elective payment is still available reductions to the available credit could apply (subject to exceptions) if the domestic content bonus credit is not met for the Section 45 credit. If pursuing the §45Y credit, the available credit begins to phase out depending on the applicable year. If an organization uses tax-exempt bonds for financing, the credit is reduced by up to 15%.

Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction

The IRA significantly expanded the energy efficient commercial buildings property deduction under §179D. Starting January 1, 2023, the base deduction is $0.50 per square foot, with a maximum deduction of $5 per square foot if the “five times” bonus credit requirements and certain energy efficiency requirements are met. The qualification for the tax deduction is available when a building’s energy cost is reduced by at least 25% compared to an applicable reference building (meeting the applicable American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards). The IRA eliminated the lifetime cap, and deduction limits will now reset every three or four years. The IRA also expanded the §179D deduction eligibility to designers of commercial buildings owned by governmental entities.

The IRA also changed the reference building standard used to determine the building’s energy efficiency. Buildings placed in service on or after January 1, 2023 should use the ASHRAE standards affirmed by the Secretary within the last four years before the placed-in-service date, a change from the current standard of two years before construction began.

If your organization is considering making energy-efficiency improvements to your building envelope, HVAC, hot water systems, or interior lighting, then the expanded §179D deduction may be worth exploring.

Qualified Commercial Clean Vehicles Credit

If your organization is considering investing in a fleet of vehicles for commercial use, the IRA provides a tax credit for purchasers of qualified commercial clean vehicles (the §45W credit). The credit amount is the lesser of:

  • 15% of the vehicle’s basis, i.e., cost to the buyer, or 30% for vehicles without internal combustion engines, i.e., not powered by gas or diesel, OR
  • The amount the purchase price exceeds the price of a comparable internal combustion vehicle, i.e., the incremental cost of the vehicle.

This credit is capped at $7,500 for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating less than 14,000 pounds and $40,000 for all other qualifying commercial clean vehicles. However, there is no limit on the number of clean vehicles your organization can claim, and the credit can be carried over as a general business credit.

For organizations that qualify as an applicable entity, a direct payment election can be made to receive cash back in lieu of a credit. 

For additional information on the elective payment election, organizations can reference our New IRS Elective Pay & Transferability Guidance.

Before purchasing a vehicle, remember to also check the IRS index of qualified manufacturers. In order to qualify for the credit, the vehicle must be made by a qualified manufacturer.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit

For state, local, and tribal governments in low-income communities or non-urban areas, the IRA provides a tax credit for alternative fuel, e.g., electricity, ethanol, natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel, and others, vehicle refueling, and charging property, starting in 2023 and through December 31, 2032.

In general, the base credit amount is 6% of the cost limited to $100,000 credit per item of property. However, organizations can claim a 30% credit for projects meeting the “five times bonus” requirements.

This tax credit is eligible for direct pay by governmental organizations.

Our Approach

Our professionals at Forvis Mazars can work with your state, local, or tribal government to:

  • Identify tax opportunities under the IRA
  • Quantify the potential financial impact of these tax incentives
  • Model the business case for a clean energy investment
  • Aid in documentation and recordkeeping for the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements
  • Educate you on the direct pay election and related process

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to a professional at Forvis Mazars.

Related FORsights

Like what you see?
Subscribe to receive tailored insights directly to your inbox.