Congress Has Taken a Great First Step Toward Solar – But More Can Be Done
After a hard year of pandemic, polarization, and politics—our elected leaders came together and gave Americans something to cheer. The critical year-end stimulus package included bipartisan legislation to extend the federal investment tax credit on solar and wind power projects. Imagine that, bipartisan support for anything these days speaks volumes to how important it must be for America.
The U.S. solar industry is a multi-billion-dollar economic engine that is poised to help rebuild our economy and drive domestic investment into under-resourced communities. The industry currently invests over $20 billion each year, with a new project installed every 84 seconds by over 10,000 solar businesses employing over 250,000 people. Virtually every large corporation, many states, and a large number of cities have committed to moving to 100% clean energy in the next two decades. And, perhaps most importantly, President-Elect Biden has committed to transitioning to 100% renewables by 2035. These goals are challenging, but that’s never stopped America before.
The solar industry can rise to the challenge of rebuilding our energy infrastructure, putting steel in the ground, creating jobs in our communities, and providing Americans with domestic energy to power our homes, our offices, and our cars. While supporting an Investment Tax Credit for solar projects is a great step in the right direction, the new Congress and Administration can—and must—go further.
First, the Biden Administration will have the opportunity to immediately and unilaterally cut import tariffs on solar modules. These tariffs make it less expensive to buy and transport solar modules to the middle of the Sahara Desert than to the middle of Ohio and reduce project viability and American jobs as a result. Since 2018, over 60,000 renewable energy jobs and nearly $20 billion have been lost due to these tariffs. Cutting these tariffs would reduce the costs of solar modules by at least 20%, driving clean energy investment and jobs throughout the U.S.
Second, one of the biggest hurdles to scaling renewable energy is the existence of old and aging electricity infrastructure. Rebuilding our electrical grid—much of which is over 50 years old—is key for our transition into the next era. Utilities, the federal government, and the industry itself must take a coordinated approach to investing in our aging transmission and distribution infrastructure to drive new development.
And third, the single best way to facilitate the transition to a clean energy economy is through the implementation of a national market-based renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Today, 37 states have an RPS and a national RPS has growing bipartisan support within Congress, too. An RPS—already a well-known framework for major banking and financial institutions—would set a blueprint with incremental goals to meet 100 percent clean energy. As Congress and the new Administration begins to transition to a clean energy economy, accuracy, credibility, and tested solutions will be critical to the success of our national energy goals.
Americans have an opportunity to rebuild our energy infrastructure to be more resilient and sustainable and invest in our communities. Our lawmakers have taken a great first step in passing the investment tax credit for new solar projects. Now it’s time to work together to go the rest of the way toward something meaningful for the future of America—and the planet.
Yuri Horwitz is Chief Executive Officer of Sol Systems, a solar finance and development company headquartered in Washington, D.C.