The US can address job creation, economic recovery, climate change, renewable energy deployment and COVID-19 relief by investing in a clean, affordable electricity system, the Solar Energy Industries Association said Nov. 17 about its 100-day agenda for President-elect Joe Biden and the newly elected Congress.
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The 2020 election will have tremendous consequences for the future of energy and climate policy in the United States, so SEIA prepared a legislative and executive agenda for 2021 and beyond to provide guidance for the incoming Biden administration and new members of Congress, according to SEIA.
"This is an incredible time in the solar industry," SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said Nov. 17 during a media call.
The $18 billion solar industry has bipartisan support because it is a "job creating engine" with solar installations and jobs in every state, Hopper said.
By the end of Q2 2020, the US had 3.5 GW of installed solar capacity, according to SEIA data. The US solar market will install nearly 100 GW of solar from 2021-2025, 42% more than was installed over the last five years.
SEIA has laid out a plan for what it calls the "Solar+ Decade." The goal over the next decade is to grow solar to 20% of US electric use by 2030, up from 3% currently, Hopper said, adding this will add 600,000 jobs and offset emissions by 30%.
"There is no single policy that can help the U.S. achieve a clean energy future," according to SEIA's "The Solar Vision for 2021 & the 117th Congress" report. "As such, this document outlines a suite of policies, encompassing both executive and legislative actions, that can put America on a path to 100% clean energy."
SEIA's 100-day agenda for the new administration and Congress focuses on three areas: continue to advance bold clean energy goals and get serious about it by developing comprehensive carbon policy, invest in clean energy infrastructure and the workforce needed to build it, and make sure markets are competitive and remain open to clean energy, Hopper said.
"We have grown in states that you don't think are the sunniest," Hopper said about examples like Minnesota and Massachusetts, because the market is driven by policy, cost and the ability to compete.
Solar jobs and technology can fill the void when coal plants close, as well as changes to the natural gas industry down the road, Hopper said, adding many of the jobs are in construction and have similar technology.
'Six for 46' plan
In addition, SEIA has a "six for 46" plan of things the newly elected president should do first, Hopper said.
Up first would be an executive order to get rid of the section 201 tariffs on imported solar cells and modules.
"The policy is clearly not working," Hopper said. "It was supposed to create products here in the US and it's not."
Second would be to appoint a climate czar, Hopper said.
Next is to put bold legislation before Congress that includes a five-year extension to the solar investment tax credit, which started to decrease after 2019.
SEIA has been engaging with Republican and Democratic members of Congress regarding an extension, Hopper said. Residential solar installations fell 23% between Q1 and Q2 largely due to stay-home order during the initial stage of the coronavirus pandemic, while non-residential installations were down 12%, according to SEIA data.
"We have really made the case on The Hill that this pandemic has limited out ability to grow," Hopper said.
The "six for 46" plan also includes investing in meaningful manufacturing.
Also needed is the appointment and confirmation of US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commissioners that understand the changing energy landscape, Hopper said.
Lastly, appoint a secretary of interior who is committed to responsible development of renewables on public land.
"We want to make sure there is as much land as possible for solar development," Hopper said.
Storage is a "critical" part of the mix, Hopper said, adding microgrids are part of the solution but do not fit all needs.
"The incredible development of wind and solar ... will require deployment of storage," Hopper said. "That's just how the system has to work."
By 2025, one-fifth of new utility PV systems, one-third of new residential solar systems and one-quarter of new non-residential solar systems will be paired with energy storage, according to SEIA data.