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Clinton to Solar Companies: "You Just Can't Be Deterred"

This afternoon at Solar Power International 2012, Former President Bill Clinton offered words of encouragement and admiration for solar companies in America and around the globe.

Addressing the crowd whom he acknowledged are “people who represent what I believe in,” the former president said that “creative cooperation” is the only way for industry to make big accomplishments at home and abroad. “There is not a single successful example on earth of a country that is succeeding who doesn’t have shared cooperation,” he said.

According to the Solar Electric Power Association’s Julia Hamm, who introduced Clinton, he had always wanted to speak at Solar Power International but his schedule and the show schedule were simply never aligned. This year, however, to the delight of show organizers SEPA and SEIA, he showed up in Orlando at precisely 4pm on Wednesday to address a packed auditorium.

In his speech, Mr. Clinton acknowledged that he was “preaching to the saved” but emphasized the dire need for the solar industry to set the record straight regarding the economic and environmental benefits that solar power and other renewables are already providing to various parts of the globe.  He said that most Americans don’t know that Germany has netted 300,000 jobs in solar energy even accounting for the draw that the feed-in tariff has had on its economy.  He said that most Americans don’t know how much public-private cooperation is already happening.

Clinton also said that most people don’t really know what happened to Solyndra, explaining that in his view, it was simply a failed start-up that couldn’t get to scale before it ran out of money.  “I think a mistake was made by not having the industry as a whole offer a credible explanation [for Solyndra],” he later told Rhone Resch during a question and answer session.  “People will accept the fact that DOE made a mistake,” he said.  He also pointed out that most Americans don’t know that $22 are given in subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy for every one dollar given to renewables.

“These are things people need to know,” he said.

Speaking for more than an hour, Clinton touched on some of key projects he has spearheaded through the Clinton Global Initiative such as using solar power in Haiti to power schools and hospitals.  He said that he had learned on a recent trip to Costa Rica, that the country is already mostly powered by clean energy (hydropower) and has plans to tap geothermal and solar energy in the near future.  Clean energy is not just a race between China and U.S., he said, but rather it’s about people who are thinking about the future.

“You represent the future,” he told the audience, stating that in his view people working in the solar industry are lucky that they get to get up every day, look in the mirror and say ‘I’m going to make something good happen today.’

The solar industry is in the "future business" according to the former president, reminding the audience that the industry must do everything it can with what it already has in front of it. “It is a great mistake to worry about what will happen next year,” he said.  “Good and bad things happen over a long period of time and just when you least expect it, you reach a tipping point,” he said.

“You are going to win this battle, the question is when and where and how,” he said. 

Lead image: Former President Bill Clinton via Shutterstock

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