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Report: Solar Energy Could Meet 15% of US Electricity by 2020

Leaders representing the U.S. solar energy industry reported on the potential of solar energy in the U.S. this week. The findings, which were presented at an UNFCCC press briefing in the Bella Center, the hub of activity at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP15), are that solar is capable of meeting 15% of U.S. energy needs by 2020.

The Expanding Solar Energy in the United States briefing was hosted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and featured U.S. solar industry leaders outlining the Solar Bill of Rights legislation needed to rapidly deploy solar energy to fight climate change and create jobs.

“The evidence is clear on the problem of climate change: we need to do more and do it quicker,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Solar energy is our immediate solution. The solar industry is ready now to do more, do it faster and create jobs. The only things holding solar back are antiquated policies developed over the last century that favor polluting sources of energy. Ultimately, it’s important to have a price on pollution, but U.S. policymakers need to enact the provisions in the Solar Bill of Rights to make an immediate difference in addressing climate change.”

In a report released jointly with solar industry groups representing more than 90 countries around the world, SEIA presented an accelerated solar deployment scenario for the United States to meet 15% of electricity needs by 2020.

Twelve percent would come from solar electric power generated by photovoltaic solar panels and concentrating solar power plants. Another 3% of electricity would be offset by solar water heating systems.

The report also noted the key policies needed for the industry to scale up and compete effectively. These policies are conveyed in the Solar Bill of Rights, unveiled by Resch. The platform lays out eight basic rights that give the solar industry equal access to the electricity marketplace and levels the playing field with the fossil fuel industries:

  1. The right to put solar on our homes and businesses
  2. The right to connect our solar energy systems to the grid
  3. The right to net meter and receive at least full retail rates
  4. The right to a fair competitive environment
  5. The right to equal access to public lands
  6. The right to build and interconnect new transmission lines
  7. The right to buy solar electricity from utilities
  8. Consumers have the right to the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry

The industry estimates that by 2020 more than 880,000 new solar jobs would be created in the U.S. while reducing total energy emissions by 10% (nearly 600 million metric tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions would be avoided annually).

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) is also in Copenhagen to make the case that solar provides the opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog traditional energy dependence on fossil fuel to producing clean energy.

“Solar energy offers a decentralized solution, easily adapted to poor infrastructures and ready for an expanded energy access to meet fast growing demand,” said Murray Cameron, EPIA’s vice-president. “Our recent study  shows the enormous potential of photovoltaic energy (PV) in ‘Sunbelt’ regions where many of the developing countries are located.”

All of the Sunbelt countries have great solar resources and most are experiencing a sharp increase in demand for electricity due to their growing economies and population – such as China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa.

“PV is an environmentally-friendly solution for the Sunbelt that is feasible now with existing and readily available technology,” said Adel El Gammal, EPIA's secretary general. “One of the main obstacles – and one that needs attention at COP15 – is the definition of a sound process for appropriate technology transfer.”

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