Solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States
WASHINGTON, DC -- Calling for "stable, reliable, well-structured tax policy," the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has weighed into the tax reform debate by offering extensive insight and comments to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is tasked with overhauling the federal tax code.
Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. And last month – for the first time ever – solar energy accounted for all new electric generation in the United States, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). What's more, preliminary numbers show solar provided nearly one-third of all new utility-scale power nationwide during the 1st quarter of 2013.
"Since the enactment of the 30-percent commercial and residential solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in 2005, domestic deployment of solar has increased twelve-fold, the cost to consumers has significantly dropped, and we have developed a domestic industry that today employs over 119,000 Americans," SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch told a House Ways and Means Committee working group, headed up by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).
"By any objective measure, these important incentives are doing exactly what they were meant to do – allow our nation to reap the significant energy, economic and environmental benefits associated with utilizing our abundant solar resources," Resch added.
In 2012 alone, the price of solar panels dropped by more 40 percent, and costs continue to fall, making solar even more affordable for residential and business consumers. Today, cumulative solar capacity in the U.S. now exceeds 7,700 megawatts (MW) – enough to power more than 1.2 million American homes, with photovoltaics (PV) capacity growing by more than thirty-fold in recent years.
Last year, the U.S. installed 3,313 MW of utility-scale and distributed PV capacity – up from 1,892 MW in 2011.
Resch made several other key points to lawmakers:
• Solar represents America's largest source of domestic energy, yet represents less than one half of one percent of our energy generation;
• The solar industry has grown from less than 15,000 employees in 2005 to more than 119,000 today, reflecting the importance of the ITC;
• The U.S. lacks a comprehensive energy policy, instead relying on the tax code to provide incentives to develop new energy sources. SEIA believes it is important to maintain these policies until our largest source of domestic energy – solar – becomes a significant part of our energy mix.
Resch also told lawmakers that both the 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California and the 280 MW Solana Generating Station in Arizona are on track to be placed in service this year. Between 2013 and 2016, projects deploying Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies will add more than 3,000 MW of generating capacity – and many of these projects will use innovative storage systems, allowing solar energy produced during the day to be used to meet electricity demand at night.
"Stable, reliable and well-structured tax policy provides the framework for innovation throughout the solar value chain – from scientists developing novel solar technologies to the installers offering new financing options that make solar more affordable for consumers," Resch continued. "Retaining and enhancing proven, highly-effective tax policies is the right choice for American jobs and our local and national economies."
Resch added that an independent research report released in 2012 by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, concluded that solar energy is following the same path to commercialization as other traditional energy sources spurred by federal incentives.
Given current trends and smart tax policies, "costs will continue to drop on account of economies of scale, improved technology and enhanced efficiencies, and reliable access to conventional and innovative financing," Resch told lawmakers.
- SEIA Comments to Ways and Means on Comprehensive Tax Reform, April 15, 2013: http://www.seia.org/research-resources/comments-house-ways-means-committee-working-group-energy-tax-reform
- 2013 SEIA Policy Priorities: http://www.seia.org/research-resources/2013-policy-priorities-federal-state
- U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year-in-Review: http://www.seia.org/research-resources/us-solar-market-insight
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 and its 1,000 member companies are building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works 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