We talked with Randy Lucas, founder of Lucas Tax + Energy Consulting, about his company’s unique approach to helping clients take advantage of tax credits to become more sustainable. Lucas describes his team as “knowledge-preneurs,” providing education and guidance on available incentives. Lucas, formerly the chair of NCSEA’s Board of Directors, has been a leader in increasing opportunities for North Carolina businesses to transition to clean energy technologies.
Founding Lucas Tax + Energy Consulting
From Richmond, Virginia, Lucas earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting at Virginia Tech. He got his start in corporate tax accounting and later moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to be a consultant at Deloitte.
Lucas’ interest in sustainability was sparked when he moved to PricewaterhouseCoopers and began working with a client of theirs at the time, Urban Outfitters, that had a “unique focus on sustainability” that they incorporated into decisions. Here, he witnessed the connection between tax incentives, sustainability, and energy initiatives. He also saw that a lot of companies were not taking advantage of tax incentives that encouraged sustainability, resulting in a lost opportunity to save money, protect the environment, and improve environmental equity.
Spurred by this realization, Lucas said, “I decided to dedicate my focus to energy incentives in tax policy and tax code to bridge the intersection of policy and incentives to people who can use them.” To do this work, in 2009 he created his consulting firm to work with companies in solar and energy efficiency to help them take advantage of incentives.
Located in Charlotte, Lucas Tax + Energy Consulting describes itself as “uncommon.” Not only does the firm offer a unique combination of tax and sustainability services, they also are a Black-owned CPA firm. To this point, Lucas outlined the underlying challenge of representation and diversity in this space, explaining that there are fewer Black CPAs than lawyers or doctors. Another area of differentiation for the business, further leading to Randy’s label as “uncommon,” is their focus on consulting tax strategy as opposed to bookkeeping and tax compliance.
With their focus on clean energy, the team hones in on a few specific areas of the tax code. And with this in-depth expertise in certain areas of the tax code, the firm also provides guidance and expertise to other accounting firms, helping them to navigate the clean energy space.
In general, though, Lucas Tax + Energy has five areas of focus where they lend expertise to clients and partners:
- Energy efficiency studies, which involve helping clients take advantage of incentives for existing and new buildings, including an energy efficiency deduction and accelerated depreciation deduction;
- Renewable energy consulting for business owners and residential homeowners who are interested in renewable energy initiatives such as solar development and clean transportation;
- Capital fixed asset cost segregation and tax reviews, which includes tax benefit estimates and consulting on accounting issues;
- Tax consulting research and tax incentive planning, which focuses on researching and identifying ways to use new technologies for taking advantage of incentives;
- Grant-writing services, through which his team focuses on energy-related grants like the USDA Rural Energy for America and REAP grants; Lucas explained that these grants “highlight that incentives for clean energy are not always in the tax code; sometimes they are grants from federal and state governments."
Moreover, Lucas believes that his company stands out for its transparency and authenticity that allows clients to trust them. As he put it, “Trust is a manifestation of character. I want to do the best on the work that I do and the projects we consult on. I want to gain my clients’ trust as an advisor and resource.” Lucas explained that if he does not know an answer, he is honest and tells them when he needs to get back to them. “We want our clients and customers to have an experience where it is uncommon but something you can rely on and trust in,” he continued.
Opportunities with the Inflation Reduction Act
Looking toward future incentives, Lucas emphasized, “There’s a lot to be excited about with the potential of the Inflation Reduction Act.” The bill, referred to as IRA, provides incentives that will help companies, nonprofits, tax-exempt organizations, municipalities, and school districts that are starting to focus on clean energy.
“The fact that they can invest and receive tax payments is really exciting. It helps us think bigger to address climate and environmental justice issues. There’s potential for interesting collaboration between the public and private space, say between universities, community organizers, and solar developers coming together to meet goals like increasing affordable housing and getting school buses to run with clean energy,” he said.
Lucas thinks we will look back and be amazed at how much organizations could do with the IRA benefits. Bigger picture, Lucas and his colleagues see an environment in which nearly every type of business or organization across the board can benefit from provisions within the IRA.
Making NC’s Clean Energy Transition More Inclusive
Having spent much of his career in North Carolina, Lucas has witnessed the state’s clean energy progress. He said North Carolina’s clean energy efforts have been a major influence on the Southeast and rest of the country. With significant progress being made, he still sees room for growth in finding ways to include more people in the energy transition. Specifically, Lucas wants to see more minorities, including women, become business owners and investors to find the financial capital in the sustainable energy transition, allowing for equitable participation. “It means a lot to me as a Black business owner that NCSEA puts equity first,” he said.
We’d like to say thank you to Randy Lucas and the team at Lucas Tax + Energy Consulting for the work they do in sustainability. Their commitments are integral to making progress toward a just clean energy transition.