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Sen. Sanders Introduces 10 Million Solar Home Initiative

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate's green jobs subcommittee introduced legislation with nine cosponsors to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade.

Sanders' bill, the 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water Heating Act of 2010, would authorize rebates which, along with other incentives, would cover up to half the cost of the 10 million solar power systems and 200,000 water heating systems. Non-profit groups and state and local governments also would be eligible.

"At a time when we spend $350 billion importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence," Sanders said. "A dramatic expansion of solar power is a clean and economical way to help break our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, improve our geopolitical position, and create good-paying green jobs."

At a Senate committee hearing, Sanders questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu about President Obama's budget for next year. The White House requested US $2.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The requested 5 percent boost overall included a 22 percent increase for solar power.

The potential for solar power also was the subject of testimony last week before Sanders' green jobs subcommittee by Jeff Wolfe, chief executive officer of groSolar. Wolfe said Sanders' bill "would help homeowners and small businesses stabilize their energy costs."

Sanders said a recent report shows that solar power could help make every state more energy independent if solar units were installed on available rooftop space, because every state can meet 10 percent or more of its electricity needs just through rooftop solar. Moreover, because solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than other energy sources. Sanders' bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next ten years in the solar industry.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) applauded Sanders and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) for introducing the bill.

“Senator Sanders and Congressman Cohen have shown true leadership by setting a bold vision for solar installations that will help the U.S. reclaim global leadership in this fast growing industry,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Passing this bill would create the world’s largest market for solar energy here in the U.S. and bring with it tens of thousands of manufacturing and installation jobs in all 50 states.”

Reaction from other players in the solar industry was also positive. Sharp Solar said that it would help boost both the manufacturing and integration sectors.

“Sharp commends Senator Saunders and Representative Cohen for sponsoring this new legislation which will foster the growth of the U.S. residential solar market,” said Ron Kenedi, vice president of Sharp Solar. “We are pleased to see Congressman Cohen and the State of Tennessee, where we manufacture our solar modules, lead this effort. Legislation such as this will help make our nation’s energy portfolio more sustainable, create green jobs and help combat climate change, while helping secure energy independence.”

The legislation's cosponsors include Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ),  Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

“This bill will help make America energy independent while creating many thousands of good paying jobs in the U.S. It will also help bring long term relief to American homeowners, who otherwise face mounting energy bills. This bill represents a rare legislative opportunity for a win-win-win, and we salute Senator Sanders and Representative Cohen for introducing it,” Wolfe said.

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