Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®), today addressed the Opening General Session of Solar Power International 2010 (SPI), the largest business-to-business solar energy conference and expo in North America. Below is the full text of his remarks.

SEIA® President Rhone Resch Calls on U.S. Solar Industry To Be America's Number One Energy Provider

Rhone Resch | SEIA

It’s going to be a great week, building on one of the best weeks solar ever had.

I am happy to report that the Bureau of Land Management finalized permitting to allow the first-ever utility-scale solar projects on federal land. This is a huge milestone for our industry. Companies now have the go ahead to start building the first utility-scale projects on federal lands.

And on Friday, I was in Phoenix for the opening of Suntech’s new manufacturing facility. Who would have thought? A Chinese company opening up a manufacturing facility here in America.

And it’s always exciting when one of your neighbors decides to go solar. That’s right, last week one of my neighbors, President Obama, decided to install both PV and solar thermal on the White House!

It was a big win for the solar industry. And it was the result of teamwork. SEIA was part of a strong coalition of organizations including the Globama campaign in which tens of thousands of Americans called on President Obama to put solar on the White House.

This past spring, I had the opportunity to appeal directly to President Obama in the Rose Garden to put solar on the White House. It was a sunny day and we talked about the large flat roof over his office and the importance of putting solar on the People’s House. He listened to all of us and today it’s happening.

This is what we can achieve when we all work together.

I am also happy to report that solar energy is now the fastest growing energy source in the United States! During a recession. With 10 percent unemployment. Solar is rocking!

However, although we are the fastest growing energy source, the fact remains that we are still the smallest. And to change this we need more than a patchwork of markets scattered around the country. To change this, we, as an industry, need a national VISION.

And so today I want to share with you that vision.

A vision for the industry where solar becomes America’s number one source of new installed energy each year – bigger than coal, bigger than natural gas, bigger than nuclear. A vision where we increase the amount of solar we install in the U.S. by more than 20 times over last year’s record levels. A vision where all solar technologies come together and we install 10 gigawatts – that’s 10 billion watts – of clean solar power each and every year.

That’s enough solar to power 2,000,000 new homes.

Or shut down 10 polluting coal plants each and every year.

And think about this, we achieve this goal not in 2030 or 2020, but by 2015 – just a little more than 4 years from now. Together, we can do this.

Even more exciting, think about the positive change to the U.S. economy by achieving our vision.

We create 220,000 new solar jobs for our families and neighbors while supporting half a million more jobs in other industries.

We add over $30 billion in direct economic growth and hundreds of billions of dollars in other sectors of the economy -each and every year.

This vision drives economic recovery, creates energy security, and of course, substantially cuts the pollution causing climate change.

Our vision of a 10 gigawatt annual market makes the U.S. the largest solar market in the world and in just 5 years we surpass natural gas, wind and coal to become the largest new source of energy installed each year in the U.S.

Just as we all worked together to get solar on the White House, we can do this too. We can do it, we will do it and we will do it as a team.

The good news is that we’ve already started - solar is growing and is one of the few bright spots in our tough economy.

How do we know that? SEIA has expanded our market research team and is partnering with GTM Research to provide you with the most accurate data and analysis of the U.S. solar market - all technologies and all market segments. Today, we are releasing our new report – the U.S. Solar Market Insight™, and the data it contains is impressive. For example:

1) The U.S. solar electric market is growing by over 100 percent this year, exceeding 1 gigawatt. In the PV industry, all segments are having record years. Back in June, utility-scale installations already surpassed 2009 totals – and residential and commercial installations continue to grow at a 40-50 percent rate.

2) America is also quickly becoming the largest CSP market in the world. Roughly 80 megawatts are expected to come online in 2010 – that’s 10 times more than last year. And we have over 23 gigawatts under development – enough to power 4.6 million homes.

Do you like hot showers? Well, we’ve got them.

3) Solar water heating enjoys a sixth consecutive year of growth, jumping from 2.6 million square feet installed in 2009 to more than 3 million in 2010 – a 16 percent growth rate.

4) And in the first half of 2010, U.S. manufacturers produced more than a third of the world’s polysilicon supply, over 500 megawatts of cells and over 500 megawatts of modules.

As the market grows, so does your business. Did you know that three of the five energy businesses on FORTUNE 100’s list of Fastest Growing Companies are solar manufacturers?

First Solar, Trina Solar and SunPower.

And did you realize that seven of Inc. Magazine’s list of America’s fastest growing private firms, are in the solar industry? That includes Standard Solar, at number three, with a 3,274 percent growth rate over the past 3 years.

I encourage you to stop by SEIA’s booth, number 2427, and learn more about the U.S. Solar Market Insight™ report and particularly some of the exciting state data that it contains.

Solar is being installed throughout the US in many different settings, from crayon factories to landfills.

I find it incredible that we now live in a world where you can be born in a solar hospital, get educated in a solar school, go to a solar college and while there drink beer brewed at a solar brewery.

Get married in a solar church, go to work in a solar office building, watch your favorite baseball team in a solar stadium and live in a country protected by the world’s best armed forces powered by solar. And I’m hopeful that when I get to that magic age, my kids have the opportunity to put me in a solar-powered nursing home.

The breadth and depth of solar in our lives is amazing.

And with every installation, solar is putting Americans back to work. I personally think that is the best part about the growth of our industry - that we’re creating jobs and opportunity across the country. Creating new hope for electricians, salesmen, plumbers, roofers, and so many other professions that have suffered during the recession.

As of today, the solar industry employs nearly 100,000 people in the United States. Tomorrow you’ll hear specifics with the release of the very first National Solar Jobs Census from The Solar Foundation. It shows there are more solar jobs out there than we thought – with a lot more coming in the next 12 months.

Our job growth is an example to state and federal policy makers across the country that solar is a good policy investment.

And to illustrate this point, SEIA compiled profiles of the solar industry workforce in all 50 states at a phenomenal new website, called Solar Works for America dot com (www.SolarWorksforAmerica.com), which launches today.

These profiles are personal stories of real people who are making solar work today. The site also shares comprehensive state-by-state listings of solar employers and solar market data. These are solar success stories, the stories that make America great.

This site includes the new PSA webisodes that SEIA has produced to show the public, first hand, how solar works for America, and how solar is putting America back to work.

Come check it out at SEIA’s booth, number 2427.

Now let’s talk about how we achieve this vision.

Step One. We must level the playing field.

Even though 94 percent of Americans think it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power, there are some who don’t – particularly the powerful coal, oil and nuclear industries.

They are mounting unprecedented attacks on our industry TODAY. From advertising campaigns to direct lobbying attacks in Washington, the fossil fuel industry is trying to shut us down and put you out of business.

Big Oil companies and other special interests spent $500 million in lobbying and campaign contributions to defeat the clean energy and climate legislation in Congress. Using their resources, they were able to delay and ultimately kill any hope of a national RPS or cap and trade program.

And right here in California they are doing the same thing. The Big Oil companies, led by the Koch Brothers, are spending millions of dollars supporting Proposition 23, a proposal that would kill AB 32 – the most progressive clean economy legislation in the country. We must unite as a team to oppose Proposition 23. We need to send the fossil fuel lobby a very clear message: Step aside, and take your hands off of California’s clean energy economy.

Every year, the toxic fossil industries receive $550 billion in subsidies worldwide. A trillion dollars every 22 months. From tax credits to price supports, to access to millions of acres of lands given away to drilling, the fossil fuel industry is grotesquely over subsidized at the expense of the renewable energy industries.

After 150 years of subsidies it’s time to level the playing field - it’s time to cut their subsidies and shift support to solar and other renewable energy technologies.

And the good news is that the public is on our side. 80 percent of Americans believe that Congress should consider shifting federal support from fossil fuel industries to the solar industry.

So to design the federal and state policy structure that defines this level playing field, SEIA is convening a Solar Policy Summit in November.

The brightest policy minds in the industry will determine our policy priorities at the state and national level for the next several years that allow us to achieve our 10 gigawatt goal. Fossil may be stronger and bigger, but we have the power of the people our side.

And the backbone of our policy platform is the Solar Bill of Rights, which I introduced at this very conference last year.

Since then more than 33,000 Americans have signed on. We will deliver the Solar Bill of Rights to the new Congress in January, and I want you to be there with us. Sign on at SolarBillofRights.org and ask your friends and colleagues to do the same.

Step Two. A new approach to financing.

Without question, the biggest issue facing our industry is financing. In June of this year, SEIA convened our second CEO Summit, and during that meeting the CEOs were unanimous that financing remains our biggest obstacle to growth.

As a follow up, SEIA is working to bridge the gap by convening a Solar Finance Summit next month in New York City. We are bringing together the solar industry with the leaders from Wall Street to identify new methods of financing projects and new sources of capital to keep the solar industry expanding toward our 10-gigawatt goal.

We are also working with the federal government to find new ways to provide financing. The DOE Loan Guarantee Program helps, but only for big projects. What we need is a reliable, sustainable domestic funding source that provides low interest loans quickly to the solar industry for all markets and all technologies. And that is exactly what we are advocating for. SEIA is working with Congress, the Administration and the financial industry to enact this solution as quickly as possible.

Step Three. We must conduct our business with the highest ethical standards.

The only way we can grow this industry is if we do so in a professional, ethical manner. SEIA’s Solar Code of Ethics provides the framework, but it is incumbent on you to operate your business in the highest ethical manner and to maintain the high level of trust the public has placed in all of us.

If we play by the rules, we’ll all win. The few who operate unethically, hurt all of us.

As an industry, we must accurately represent our products and how they perform. We need to understand federal, state and local incentives and explain them properly to our customers. We must deliver systems that outperform and that meet all local and state codes. We must abide by high standards of environment, health and safety in the workplace and in our product lifecycle. And we must stand by our products and provide the highest level of customer service.

If you are growing a business based on good ethical standards and are providing high quality products to your customers, then you are a welcome member of our team. A welcome member of TEAM SOLAR.

TEAM SOLAR is what we create when we come together as a community, as an industry and fight for what we believe in.

TEAM SOLAR is who we are when we look out for each other and speak with one voice regardless of technology or business model.

TEAM SOLAR is how we overcome those that oppose us and achieve our 10 gigawatt annual market.

My father always told me that the world is run by those that show up. It is now your time to show up and participate, and show the world that TEAM SOLAR is a force to be reckoned with. A force that continues to expand markets and bring clean, reliable solar power to all homes and businesses.

And by joining TEAM SOLAR, you are in great company with teammates that you can count on. People like Justin Cox.

Justin is a former member of the U.S. Army, who served seven years in the military, including two and a half years in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wounded in action serving our country, defending our freedoms. Following his tour of duty overseas, he came home, and after being medically discharged, took a job with Sungevity as a way to continue serving our great country. He said he enjoys working in the solar industry because he is QUOTE “making a difference one roof at a time.”

Justin is with us here today and I’d like to ask him to stand up now.

Justin, we thank you for risking it all for us, and for coming home to take action and join our efforts to drive America’s clean energy future. We’re proud to have you as a member of TEAM SOLAR.

Justin is a member of TEAM SOLAR. Are you a member of TEAM SOLAR?

I can’t hear you.


If you are, then now is the time to get involved.

What can you do?

First, SEIA is YOUR trade association fighting to expand markets in the U.S. We are working day and night to enact policies that grow your business and improve your bottom line. To achieve our 10-gigawatt vision, join SEIA, YOUR trade association. Many of you have been sitting on the sidelines. We can no longer afford for you to be inactive. It is now time for you to join National SEIA. If you are already part of SEIA, get active and take advantage of all that we have to offer.

Second. Another tool for Team Solar is the SEIA PAC. Our industry’s political action committee allows us to support those members of Congress who support solar. Our solar champions in Congress stick their necks out for us each and every day. It is our responsibility to protect them and support them in the same manner and at the same level as the oil and coal industries support their champions. We must act like an industry rather than an issue.

I’m proud to say that 100 percent of SEIA staff has contributed to the PAC. Just imagine if 100 percent of our industry contributed to the PAC. Even as little as $10 makes a difference. The bottom line is that the PAC opens doors in Washington and markets for you. SEIA PAC holds its annual fundraiser on Wednesday night at SPI from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Nokia Theater. Stop by the SEIA booth for more information.

Third. For those who live and work in California, get active to help defeat Proposition 23. Contribute to the cause, host a house party, encourage your friends and neighbors to vote against it. Do not let big Texas Oil money tell you how your state should be run. We must all come together to do what we can to defeat this outrageous proposal.

Fourth. Remember how you all convinced my neighbor to put solar on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Now let’s do the same in every state. Talk to your governor, your state lawmakers, your mayor and ask them to go solar. Every governor’s mansion and every city hall in the U.S. should have solar panels. Our leaders should be showing the way to a clean energy economy.

Finally, embrace our vision. Own it.

Because 10 gigawatts means 220,000 new American jobs.

It means 2 million new homes powered by solar every year, hundreds of billions of dollars in economic growth and 10 dirty coal power plants that will be displaced each and every year by clean solar.

New revenue and new employees each year, FOR YOU, because more than in any other industry, as the U.S. solar market expands so does YOUR company’s growth.

That’s why you need to get engaged. That why you need to be a part of TEAM SOLAR.

So go out there, play hard, play to win.

Go Team Solar!

About SEIA®:

Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA is working to build a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. www.seia.org
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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