The National Press Club Newsmakers Committee hosted this morning a panel of U.S. solar industry leaders to discuss the importance of the Treasury Department’s 1603 Grant Program.
Shayle Kann of GTM Research unveiled results from the quarterly “U.S. Solar Market Insight” report, which detailed the U.S. solar industry’s growth through Q3, 2011 – the best quarter ever for the U.S. solar industry. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industry Association; Tony Clifford, chief executive officer of Standard Solar and Joe Desmond, SVP, BrightSource Energy participated in the panel discussion which was hosted and moderated by Bracewell Giuliani energy expert Frank Maisano who is a member of the club’s Newsmakers Committee.
The signing of solar and renewable energy legislation into law by Delaware Governor Jack Markell today, July 28, is the latest sign that states aren’t waiting for Congress to tax or limit carbon emissions or set a national renewable electricity standard. And it’s no wonder. Depsite President Obama’s vowing to keep trying to pass a ‘climate bill’, with political winds blowing in from the ‘right,’ the elections Nov. 2 likely mean it will be a long time before the Senate comes close to matching a climate bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2009.
Delaware follows Maryland in giving solar energy companies and their financial backers more resons reason to invest in solar projects within their borders. Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 119 is the new Delaware law, authored by state Sen. Harris McDowell. Markell’s signing of that bill, and others strengthening net metering, moderning solar grants and rebates and enabling ground-mounted solar arrays on land zoned residential, was the impetus for coverage by Diane Mastrull of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Inquirer article, headlined “In commitment to solar energy, Pennsylvania sees neighbors pull ahead,” cited the lack of similar progress for solar in Pennsylvania and the desire by solar companies, led by Standard Solar, to set up shop in the Keystone State if lawmakers see a bigger role for solar there.
But don’t give up on Pennsylvania just yet. As the article notes, there is push for a solar-only energy bill in Harrisburg this fall that could help Pennsylvania catch up. It could move on the solar provisions of House Bill 2405. That bill got bogged down in dozens of amendments, in part to kill it before the General Assembly’s summer recess.
If you have any doubt about how high the stakes are rising in the hunt for clean energy jobs and capital investments, watch below Gov. Markell’s remarks at the signing ceremony in New Castle, DE. You can find remarks by Delaware’s Secretary of the Dept. of Natural Resources Collin O’Mara and state Senator Harris McDowell, who was the principal and original author of the solar legislation.
August 13, 2008
Eight Strikes and You’re Out
John McCain recently tried to underscore his seriousness about pushing through a new energy policy, with a strong focus on more drilling for oil, by telling a motorcycle convention that Congress needed to come back from vacation immediately and do something about America’s energy crisis. Tell them to come back and get to work! McCain bellowed.
Sorry, but I can’t let that one go by. McCain knows why.
It was only five days earlier, on July 30, that the Senate was voting for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill – S. 3335 – that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.
Both the wind and solar industries depend on these credits – which expire in December – to scale their businesses and become competitive with coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike offshore drilling, these credits could have an immediate impact on America’s energy profile.
Senator McCain did not show up for the crucial vote on July 30, and the renewable energy bill was defeated for the eighth time. In fact, John McCain has a perfect record on this renewable energy legislation. He has missed all eight votes over the last year – which effectively counts as a no vote each time. Once, he was even in the Senate and wouldn’t leave his office to vote.
“McCain did not show up on any votes,” said Scott Sklar, president of The Stella Group, which tracks clean-technology legislation. Despite that, McCain’s campaign commercial running during the Olympics shows a bunch of spinning wind turbines – the very wind turbines that he would not cast a vote to subsidize, even though he supports big subsidies for nuclear power.
Barack Obama did not vote on July 30 either – which is equally inexcusable in my book – but he did vote on three previous occasions in favor of the solar and wind credits.
The fact that Congress has failed eight times to renew them is largely because of a hard core of Republican senators who either don’t want to give Democrats such a victory in an election year or simply don’t believe in renewable energy.
What impact does this have? In the solar industry today there is a rush to finish any project that would be up and running by Dec. 31 – when the credits expire – and most everything beyond that is now on hold. Consider the Solana concentrated solar power plant, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix in McCain’s home state. It is the biggest proposed concentrating solar energy project ever. The farsighted local utility is ready to buy its power.
But because of the Senate’s refusal to extend the solar tax credits, “we cannot get our bank financing,” said Fred Morse, a senior adviser for the American operations of Abengoa Solar, which is building the project. Without the credits, the numbers don’t work. Some 2,000 construction jobs are on hold.
Roger Efird is president of Suntech America – a major Chinese-owned solar panel maker that actually wants to build a new factory in America. They’ve been scouting the country for sites, and several governors have been courting them. But Efird told me that when the solar credits failed to pass the Senate, his boss told him: “Don’t set up any more meetings with governors. It makes absolutely no sense to do this if we don’t have stability in the incentive programs.”
One of the biggest canards peddled by Big Oil is that, “Sure, we’ll need wind and solar energy, but it’s just not cost effective yet.” They’ve been saying that for 30 years. What these tax credits are designed to do is to stimulate investments by many players in solar and wind so these technologies can quickly move down the learning curve and become competitive with coal and oil – which is why some people are trying to block them.
As Richard K. Lester, an energy-innovation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes, “The best chance we have – perhaps the only chance – of addressing the combined challenges of energy supply and demand, climate change and energy security – is to accelerate the introduction of new technologies for energy supply and use and deploy them on a very large scale.”
This, he argues, will take more than a Manhattan Project. It will require a fundamental reshaping by government of the prices and regulations and research-and-development budgets that shape the energy market. Without taxing fossil fuels so they become more expensive and giving subsidies to renewable fuels so they become more competitive – and changing regulations so more people and companies have an interest in energy efficiency – we will not get innovation in clean power at the scale we need.
That is what this election should be focusing on. Everything else is just bogus rhetoric designed by cynical candidates who think Americans are so stupid – so bloody stupid – that if you just show them wind turbines in your Olympics ad they’ll actually think you showed up and voted for such renewable power – when you didn’t.