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Guest Column: Think about sustainability at tax time

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By The Staff

With Tax Day on April 15 and Earth Day on April 22, this is a good time for New Mexicans to consider investing in solar energy systems and sustainable or green building – low-risk investments that benefit both the environment and taxpayers’ wallets.Gov. Bill Richardson has declared New Mexico the Clean Energy State. Policies put into place and legislation enacted to encourage solar energy system installation, green building and energy efficiency have taken root and are starting to bear fruit.New Mexico ranks second in the nation for solar resources. In a year, an average New Mexico household powered by a solar electric photovoltaic system would prevent the release at a power plant of 13,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and save 5,000 gallons of water.Choosing to invest in renewable energy at home is a great way to reduce those greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment.New Mexico gives its citizens tax credits of up to $9,000 per system (solar photovoltaic or solar thermal) for those who install either or both systems by the end of 2015.In 2006, the first year the solar energy tax credit was available, 106 taxpayers applied for and received tax credits.In 2007, the number of applications more than doubled to 215, representing an investment of $4 million in renewable solar energy systems by New Mexicans last year.In addition to the solar income tax credit, the New Mexico Solar Gross Receipts Tax Exemption is available for the sale and installation of a solar energy system. Vendors, contractors, citizens of New Mexico, and other entities are all eligible to take advantage of the exemption from the gross receipts.The federal government also offers a tax credit of up to $2,000 per solar energy system. Congress is considering extending the federal tax credit, which is currently set to expire at the end of 2008. Regardless of what the federal government does, New Mexico will continue to do its part to invest in our clean energy future.In addition to using renewable energy, it is also important for New Mexicans to reduce the energy consumption in our buildings. To encourage this, the Sustainable Building Tax Credit for residential and commercial buildings is available through 2013.New homes and commercial buildings that are highly energy efficient and use green building principles are eligible for tax credits for personal or corporate income taxes.For example, a 2,000 square foot residence that is certified green and at least 40 percent more energy efficient than a home built to the standard building code could receive a $9,000 tax credit, or greater.In these uncertain times with rising prices for gas and electricity, solar energy and sustainable building can help us achieve energy security. I encourage New Mexicans to explore these resources and how to benefit from New Mexico’s substantial tax credits.Fernando Martinez is the division director of the Energy Conservation and Management Division in the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.