27 October 2010
Editor’s note: Every Solar Flares newsletter features an article that is exclusive to Solar Flares subscribers. Exceptionally this month we felt that the October exclusive: “Solar Industry: Make Your case” includes time sensitive information. On Tuesday 2 November, Americans go to their polls, and the outcome in some states may have a critical impact on the future of the solar industry. We wanted to share our insights with all Solar Novus Today readers as to exactly what the effect may be.
In the week following Solar Power International, the largest solar show in the US, we’ve had time to reflect on what’s really important for the advancement of the solar industry. We heard again and again that right now it is more about politics and policies than about infrastructure, supply or technology.
“As politically charged as it is, our energy future is a bipartisan issue.”
Interesting that this talk comes just as voters in the US have a chance to show the kind of leadership and responsibility evidenced in Germany, Italy and other countries that have embraced a sustainable future. As politically charged as it is, our energy future is a bipartisan issue. Take for example the fact that the show organizers brought James Carville and Mary Matalin for the closing keynote. This well known couple may disagree on most political issues (Republican Matalin was adviser to President George W. Bush and Democrat Carville was an advisor to President Bill Clinton), but they do agree that solar is a good way to go (having recently installed them on their home in Louisiana) and that smart incentives provide revenue and boost jobs.
The election takes place on November 2 in the US and many races are key to the solar industry. While big losses on the Democratic side could be disastrous for renewable energy legislation, Matalin and Carville agree that with some repackaging, the same legislation can be made more palatable to Republicans. “Don’t say recovery, don’t say stimulus, don’t say earmarks, say job creating,” said Matalin.
Two key pieces of legislation include the Treasury Grant Program and California’s Proposition 23, both of which could have a huge impact on jobs.
The Treasury Grant Program was created through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that the Treasury Grant Program has supported as many as 16,000 jobs. The SEIA is calling on Congress to extend the “commence construction” date to the end of 2012.
Proposition 23 is an initiative in California that would end the state’s greenhouse gas laws. Valero, Koch Industries and Tesoro are the big oil companies trying to draw a connection between job loss and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Quite the contrary is true, proven in California where jobs in renewable energy industries have grown ten times faster than other sectors, amounting to a half million jobs in the past five years.
Also at stake are Renewable Energy Standard (RES) policies in place in 35 of the 50 states. The six states most at risk of losing potential new jobs created through existing RES policies include Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma. In Maryland, Ohio, and Illinois, the conservative gubernatorial candidates do not support RES policies. In Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma, the candidates are sceptical about global warming and the need for policies for a lower carbon future.
In difficult economic times promoting green energy is not only good for the environment, but it creates jobs. Policies set now are an investment in a sustainable future that benefits everyone. As Carville urged those at the SPI keynote, “Make your case.” He said that our future is going to be determined by politicians. And while solar competitors (coal, petroleum, nuclear) are “all over Washington,” he concluded with what we heard every day of SPI10, “You have a very good case to make.”
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