White House Calls for Solar Investments
In a report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy on the Biden administration's solar policies earlier this week, solar power could represent 40% of the nation’s electrical generation by 2035. Currently, large-scale solar decarbonization of the electricity sector accounts for 3%.
The report also noted that the solar power sector could sustain as many as 1.5 million jobs within the same timeline, however, both predictions require more investment if they are to be achieved.
Investing in Clean Energy
According to preliminary results of an upcoming analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for solar to achieve 40% of electrical generation by 2035, solar deployment in the U.S. would have to accelerate to three to four times faster than its current rate by 2030.
Solar is already reported to be the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the nation, having grown from 2.5 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2010 to over 100 GW today. In an independent statistics and analysis report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in July, large-scale U.S. solar capacity growth is expected to exceed wind growth for the first time in its history.
The Short-Term Energy Outlook document, which was released on July 7, projects that solar photovoltaic generating energy will surpass wind generated energy sometime next year. According to the EIA, the solar capacity growth in the forecast reflects various state and federal policies that support renewable energy.
However, to achieve 40% by 2035, the DOE report indicates that billions of dollars in investments in addition to market opportunities through 2050 across clean energy generation, energy storage, electricity delivery, and operations and maintenance—including in low-income and community solar—would be required.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate was reported to have passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill—after weeks of negotiations. Noted in the legislation’s outline, the infrastructure package is expected to allot $73 billion for electric grid and power infrastructure.
While this funding is still awaiting House approvals, the report pointed out several other congressional actions that could be taken to accomplish the goal. Additional recommendations by the DOE include the extension of investment and production tax credits, the creation of new incentives for transmission and storage projects and promoting community and residential solar for low- and moderate-income households.
The DOE also notes, that thanks to its own investments in solar energy, solar costs have declined between 70% and 80% since 2010, making the cost for households and communities more affordable
According to reports, various solar industry groups have already praised the report for highlighting the industry's growth and potential and expressed optimism that it signals new potential reforms and incentives.
“It’s encouraging to see the Biden administration continue to prioritize accelerating the transition to a renewable energy economy,” Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said in a statement. “As the report makes clear, seizing this growth opportunity will require rapid transformation of the power sector and significant investment in a 21st century grid. But the payoff will be both climate protection and greater economic prosperity.
“We must move the renewable sector beyond the endless cycle of temporary stopgap measures to a stable, predictable, and long-term clean energy tax platform that helps decarbonize the economy while putting millions of Americans back to work.”
Recently, Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Abigail Roth Hopper noted that four companies have filed anonymous petitions for new tariffs on solar cell and module imports from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
“The disruptive and harmful impact of new trade petitions and CBP enforcement action cannot be understated,” she wrote. “SEIA will continue to aggressively oppose any effort to unfairly favor one set of imports over another, or trade actions that hinder our industry’s ability to meet critical climate goals.”
In April of last year, the United States Trade Representative announced its plan to withdraw its exclusion of imported bifacial solar panels from application of the safeguard measure in the Federal Register.
The decision includes two-sided solar panel imports in Section 201 tariffs.
While some solar panel manufactures previously rallied for the need of tariffs on bifacial modules in December 2019, some members in the industry have opposed them.
However, based on an evaluation of comments received and other responses to the tariff exclusion, the Trade Representative—in consultation with the Secretaries of Commerce and Energy—has determined that the bifacial solar panel exclusion is actually undermining the safeguard measure and is requesting that the U.S. Court of International Trade lift the order preliminarily enjoining the withdrawal from entering into effect.
As a response to the request, at the time, SEIA was reportedly looking for opportunities to legally challenge the Trade Representative’s decision.
Regarding a timeline on the matter, the withdrawal was slated to apply to imported panels in the decision that the Court lifts the injunction, but in no case would go into effect earlier than May 18, 2020.