Solar Power presents opportunities in the United States that cannot be overstated. It can be part of a renewable energy portfolio to achieve energy independence, it can demonstrate commitment to leadership on controlling climate change and it can be the foundation for thousands of green technology jobs around the country.
Key to continued progress on these goals will be federal leadership; smart, integrated policy prescriptions; and ideas, commitment and investment from private industry.
Dow Corning is deeply committed to advancing solar power, as well as other renewable energies and sustainability technologies. Over the past five years, we have announced investments of $5 billion in solar technology, which includes significant expansion of Hemlock Semiconductor – a joint venture in which we are majority shareholder and one of the world’s largest producers of polycrystalline silicon; groundbreaking for construction on a plant that will manufacture monosilane gas – a key material used to manufacture thin-film solar cells; and a solar panel installation and Solar Discovery Center at our corporate headquarters in Midland, Michigan.
The U.S. government has also demonstrated its commitment to renewable energy. President Obama indicated that his administration will invest $150 billion over 10 years to accelerate the development of a clean energy-based U.S. economy that will create five million new green collar jobs. And in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, $500 million was dedicated to training workers to fill potentially more than 315,000 green-related jobs in construction, engineering, science and skilled trades. Of particular significance to Dow Corning, President Obama in January announced $2.3 billion in Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean energy manufacturing projects across the U.S.
Strong Federal Policy Key to U.S. Renewable Energy Advancement
The progress to-date has been encouraging, but we believe there is still more to be done. In 2009, Dow Corning announced a four point policy plan for 21st century solar leadership that we hope can serve as a useful roadmap for federal decision makers as they address the energy, environmental, security and economic challenges facing the United States through the adoption of public policy. By focusing on these four areas, we are confident that our nation can expand its energy capacity, create jobs and economic growth and move toward energy independence.
Goal #1: Establish a broad federal legislative and regulatory package, designed to encourage the rapid growth of a viable renewable energy industry and encourage consumer adoption. Energy legislation should include:
- Permanent advanced manufacturing tax credit;
- Renewable Electricity Standards, with solar set-asides;
- Federal interconnection and net metering standards; and
- A federal feed-in tariff.
In addition, legislation addressing carbon reduction must take care not to inadvertently discourage or penalize growth in the manufacturing and production of renewable energy materials and equipment.
Goal #2: Increase investments in research and development to support innovation in solar energy technologies. Legislation should include:
- Incentives to accelerate the development of solar technologies and manufacturing;
- Significant funding increases for applied research and development in the solar industry; and
- Encouragement for expansion of public-private partnerships to further develop the renewable energy industry as a whole.
Goal #3: Further invest in renewable energy-related education, training and job creation. To ensure the long-term sustainability of an economically vibrant renewable energy sector, the United States needs qualified professionals to fill the renewable energy jobs of the future.
At present, there are too few solar training opportunities available in the country to rapidly develop the tens of thousands of skilled workers needed to support the growing solar industry.
Goal #4: The federal government will “lead by example” in the implementation of clean technologies. From procurement of onsite generation, including solar energy systems, to retrofitting buildings for improved energy efficiency, to establishing new building standards and power purchase agreements, the federal government can lead the way to a new future for energy, focused on clean, sustainable technologies.
Investing in solar and other renewable energy technologies will help regenerate U.S. international competitiveness, while reinvigorating our economy by creating the green jobs needed today that will meet America’s needs tomorrow.
Dow Corning is prepared to do its part to encourage a climate of collaboration, creativity and commitment to realize this important goal. Our nation, our economy, our customers, our employees, and our citizens in the communities we serve deserve nothing less than our best effort.
Dr. Stephanie A. Burns is Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Dow Corning Corporation, headquartered in Midland, Michigan.