U.S. Lawmakers, Solar Industry Push for Change

At the beginning of a year sure to be marked with heated debate over the enactment of comprehensive energy legislation, several Congressional lawmakers embraced a proposal from US solar energy manufacturers to speed the commercialization of solar electricity in domestic markets, putting the US back at the forefront of the burgeoning photovoltaic (PV) industry.

At a Capitol Hill briefing, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), representing over 700 companies and 20,000 employees in the US solar industry, unveiled a report entitled, “Our Solar Power Future: The US Photovoltaic Industry Roadmap for 2030 and beyond.” The jobs and economy benefits of renewables were a major point that resonated with Congressional lawmakers. “Solar power can play an important role in fueling America’s future economic growth,” Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) said. “It can provide a clean, renewable and inexpensive source of energy while simultaneously creating new high-tech jobs.” Noting that the U.S. has lagged behind Europe and Japan in solar industry manufacturing and deployment, the Roadmap called for Congress to enact sustained, annually declining tax credits for solar deployment on homes and business. “Currently, there are no federal tax incentives for homeowners to have solar on their homes,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president. “With the incentives in this Roadmap, we would see a dramatic expansion in US solar markets, with installed capacity of 200 gigawatts in the US by 2030.” The proposed Roadmap would lower retail solar electricity prices from the current rate of 18 to 25 cents per kWh to 5.7 cents per kWh in 10years, making solar the least-cost retail option. Solar would provide half of all new electricity generation by 2025 under this scenario. In addition, the Roadmap strategy would generate 60,000 U.S. solar industry jobs, and more than $34 billion in new manufacturing investments over the next 10 years. By 2030, the U.S. solar industry could employ 260,000 people. Several lawmakers enthusiastically supported the Roadmap. Congressman Charles F. Bass (R-NH) said he would use every opportunity as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to advocate the Roadmap’s targets as a minimum of what is possible. “Solar energy will be a practical and cost efficient component of the United States’ energy mix,” Rep Bass said. “It will also be a driver of economic growth and high-paying jobs, a tool for sound environmental stewardship, and a new pillar for distributing generation as a means toward greater grid reliability. I am committed to working with the industry to keep Congress’s attention focused on the role photovoltaics can play in our broader national energy strategy.” Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN) had positive words for the future of the industry and said he plans on using his position on capital hill to advocate for solar. “The acceleration of renewable energy technologies and the increase in support for solar must be key ingredients to the Congress’s plan for energy independence,” said Congressman Wamp. “As co-chairman of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, and as point man for energy issues on the House Policy Committee, I plan to aggressively pursue a sharper focus on energy efficiency and energy conservation in the 109thCongress.” With natural gas demand and prices skyrocketing, much of the briefing focused on the role solar could play in easing the natural gas crunch. SEIA’s Rhone Resch estimated that solar power would displace 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by 2025 under the Roadmap scenario, saving American consumers approximately $60 billion. “We have the highest natural gas prices in the world,” Resch said. “Solar is the perfect technology to displace a portion of the natural gas demand and relieve some of the tightness in the natural gas markets. It can directly displace the need for peaking and intermediate gas plants, because solar power is greatest from 10 to 4 every day – the time that the grid experiences peak power demand.” To obtain a summary and full version of the roadmap, see the following link.
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