Legislative Update: Maryland’s Governor O’Malley Signs Bills to Modify RPS, Steady Growth and Jobs to Result
The outlook for Maryland’s solar community just got a little brighter, when late last month, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law two bills that will smooth the path for solar investors and consumers in the coming decade. We applaud the MD legislature for putting forth S.B. 791and H.B. 1187, proving anew their foresight and support of clean energy in the state.
The bills modify the current renewable portfolio standard, moving forward by two years the goal for creating 2 percent of the state’s energy through solar. Combined, the legislation ensures continued steady growth for the solar industry and levels out the boom-bust effect, stabilizing the value of SRECs and incentivizing solar investment. It will also stimulate green job growth through 2018.
As president of the regional Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA), Standard Solar CEO Tony Clifford led the Maryland solar industry effort in support of this legislation. Tony along with Marcus Joyner, a Residential Engineer, and Braxton Proctor, a Service Technician, testified in Annapolis in support of the legislation. All three were also on-site in Annapolis during the final days and hours before the votes encouraging legislators to vote for these bills. Our active social media community helped to garner awareness and gain support and we are glad that everyone’s hard work paid off for the future of solar!
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced their decision to impose tariffs on Chinese solar panel manufacturers in the 30 percent range, finding that the manufacturers had sold their products on the U.S. market for less than what it cost to make and ship them.
This move will greatly impact the solar industry in the U.S. Below, our CEO Tony Clifford gives his response to the decision:
As a leading solar developer and EPC contractor from residential through small utility-scale, Standard Solar will be directly impacted by the higher prices for solar modules likely resulting from this decision. These higher prices are going to result in slower growth for the American solar industry. This is truly ironic as it is occurring at a time when the American solar industry is within striking distance of retail cost-competitiveness with grid-supplied electricity. In the past two years the American solar industry has grown to more than 100,000 jobs — more than 70 percent of which are downstream from manufacturing. This is the industry segment that will be most harmed by today’s decision.
Whether American cell and module manufacturers will be really helped by this decision is still an open question. PV manufacturing is a truly global industry. Chinese companies are not the only foreign manufacturers shipping cells and modules to the United States. I’m sure that solar manufacturers in other Asian and European countries will be able to profitably offer solar modules in the U. S. market at prices well within the “cost + 31% tax” that will be applied to Chinese modules. This decision may prove to be more of an incentive for Japanese, Korean and other foreign manufacturers than American manufacturers.
Also, there is the possibility that this decision distracts the industry from its efforts to reach cost-competitiveness with grid-supplied power within the 4.5 years we have left of the 30 percent federal ITC. If the solar industry hits retail cost-competitiveness with the grid-supplied power in a number of states by the end of 2016, we will reach a “tipping point” where there will be no stopping the industry. If we don’t, it will not matter who wins or loses a trade war in 2012.
First of all, we have to commend President Obama for even mentioning solar energy in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. Considering that the post-Solyndra political landscape for solar is anything but friendly (read my take in the op-ed I wrote for The Washington Post), it can only be good news that the President isn’t backing down on clean energy. He’s still on board, and for that, we’re certainly grateful. In his address, he asked Congress to establish a “clean energy standard” for the nation’s utility companies. Given that this kind of standard is already on the books in most industrialized nations, it’s not an outlandish idea, and one that would certainly benefit renewable energy.
However, what is unclear is exactly what would count as clean. Most likely, nuclear, natural gas and maybe even cleaner coal plants would qualify, which would dilute the positive effects on greenhouse gas emissions that an increase in renewable energy would provide. We would urge lawmakers to consider giving renewables (solar, wind and geothermal) a significant advantage in any legislation regarding clean energy.
Another point that we were happy to see made was that the time has come to end taxpayer subsidies to oil companies. The oil and gas industry still enjoys these incentives long after the need for them has passed. As President Obama urged, it’s time to “doubledown on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising.” An analysis in 2009 by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that we could create 300,000 new jobs if the US produces just 25 percent of the nation’s electricity with renewables by 2025. This kind of job growth just is not present in the oil industry.
One thing the President made clear; it is time to invest in solar energy. He won’t back down, and neither should we.
- Tony Clifford, Standard Solar CEO