Anticipation was high and security tight for the US Vice President’s address to a packed hall at Solar Power International 2015, held in Anaheim, California. Julia Hamm, President & CEO of SEPA noted that having the Vice President attend shows not only his commitment to clean energy in general, but solar in particular. His address takes place on the same day that the Obama administration announced $1.2 million in initiatives to drive the use of clean power in the US.
Letting the secret out
Vice President Biden opened his remarks by noting that solar is now on the field house of his alma mater, the University of Delaware and also on the convention center in Anaheim. “You’re letting the secret out,” he said. “The more people that know about solar…imagine the jobs, imagine the net savings.” The Vice President went on to list the impressive gains we’ve made in solar: Since President Obama took office, he said solar has increased 20 fold; solar jobs have grown by more than 86%: more people are working in solar than work at Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook combined jobs in US. Solar installations will grow to 1 million installations next year; during the recovery we invested 90 billion dollars in clean energy; we expanded tax credits; worked with industries to set the bar for new innovation and efficiencies. Then he added, “I know you know all this, it’s like preaching to the choir, but the press is here. It’s important that people understand what you’ve done.”
The Vice President took the opportunity of the event to announce the $102 million grant that will focus on expanding solar power in America. “It’s a simple idea with profound consequences: Reduce cost, provide assistance to cities that want to go solar, create jobs.”
Share the oil industry’s tax credits
The one statement that solar industry leaders have not heard as directly (if ever) from someone in such a high office is to take away half of the $5 billion in annual tax credits given to the oil industry and apply it to the solar industry. “They don't need that tax credit. They’re not having to take the risks they used to.” He said by taking half and applying it to renewables we could reduce the deficit and provide some of the things that the middle class needs. He said if we extend the tax credit (ITC) another 3 million homes could install solar. “We need to set an example for the whole world by eliminating these wasteful unnecessary subsidies.”
In cutting oil subsidies as well as cutting use of fossil fuels, he admitted that there will be winners and losers. In the coal industry it will mean losing jobs and he said that we have a moral obligation to retrain them and put them to work in clean energy. And in speaking about jobs, he drew loud applause when he noted that the solar industry employs more veterans than any other part of the economy.
Another, finally, climate change is another reason to transition to clean energy, the Vice President said. “Set up, step up and capture this energy transition to create a virtuous cycle.” He said it’s no longer and “either or proposition.” He noted the extreme weather we’ve seen throughout the country—supreme heat waves, droughts, superstorms—this presents a national security danger. Americans have assets that allow us to seize the moment—advanced skillsets, an economic system that is agile, and we can solve problems. “We better continue to put our mind to it.” He thanked the audience for what they’re doing for the country and the world.” “Keep it going, we need you badly.”
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today