Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA), today testified before for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade’s hearing entitled, "Made in America: Innovations in Job Creation and Economic Growth." Resch detailed the private investment, technological and manufacturing innovations, tax and energy policies, and other factors that have contributed to the solar power industry’s ascent to one of the fastest growing economic sectors in America and a job creator in all 50 states. He also outlined policy recommendations for helping to continue the robust jobs creation across the solar supply chain from engineering and manufacturing to construction, installation and support services. Below is Resch’s oral testimony (written testimony linked in background materials below):
"Madam Chair Bono-Mack, Ranking Member Butterfield and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify. I’m Rhone Resch, the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). I am testifying on behalf of our 1,000 member companies and the 100,000 American citizens employed by the solar industry. Before getting into the substance of my remarks I would like to thank Chair Bono Mack and Ranking Member Butterfield for their leadership and support of solar energy.
"In the last two year, during one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s history, the solar industry has become the fastest growing industry in the energy sector and one of the fastest growing industries in any sector in the U.S.
"In 2010, the solar industry grew at a rate of 67 percent and now employs over 100,000 Americans across all 50 states. From 2009 to 2010 we doubled employment in the US, creating almost 50,000 new jobs while most other industries were contracting.
"We are putting plumbers, electricians and carpenters that lost their jobs due to the collapse of the housing market back to work. We are building new factories and providing existing manufacturers with a new large customer. And we are providing opportunities for small businesses to reinvent themselves and be part of one of the most exciting changes to our economy to occur in a generation.
"As you can see by this chart, the U.S. solar industry is expanding at a consistent 50 percent annual growth rate over the last 4 years. And in the last year, the U.S. solar industry grew from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010 a growth rate of 67 percent.
"Photovoltaic installations fully doubled in 2010 in the U.S., while construction began on dozens of massive utility-scale solar power plants that will be completed over the next several years, employing thousands of Americans and bringing billions of dollars of economic investment to the southern half of the U.S.
"But we can’t rely on the status quo. China, Germany, Italy and Japan are investing heavily in solar and they are beating us. After inventing solar electric technology at Bell Labs and decades of leadership, the U.S. is playing catch up, and the competition is stiff. Today the U.S. is a net exporter of solar energy goods and services. But this will not last long unless the right policies are adopted.
"The U.S. solar industry employs over 100,000 Americans. These workers range from small-town installers and roofers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and engineers.
"Take for instance, Justin Cox, a technical support rep at Sungevity, a (Calif.-based) company that operates in 6 states. Up until two years ago, Justin was a soldier. When he came back after serving in Iraq he found a job in the solar industry and now applies the leadership and technical skills he gained in the Army to expand his company. The U.S. solar industry is welcoming back thousands of veterans like Justin with new opportunity. And these aren’t just jobs, they are careers.
"The growth of the industry and creation of jobs is evident in all of your districts and States. For example, in Chair Bono Mack’s district, there is a 21 MW solar photovoltaic project near Blythe, California. This is one of the largest PV projects operating in the U.S. The project developer and module supplier for the project is an American company that manufacturers in the Midwest with over 1,000 American workers.
"Also in Blythe, a new 1,000 MW concentrating solar power plant – the Solar Trust of America Blythe – is under development. It will be the largest solar energy project in the world, producing enough clean energy to power 300,000 American homes.
"Unfortunately, the Blythe Project has been placed at risk by provisions of H.R. 1 which eliminate funding for the Project’s pending Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee application.
"But solar’s reach goes far beyond California.
"Here you see the impact in Texas, with the MEMC polysilicon plant in Pasadena and the new Blue Wing Solar Power plant built for Duke Energy in San Antonio. Representatives Upton and Barton, solar means thousands of jobs in your great state.
"And in Clarksville, Tennessee, located in Representative Blackburn’s district, Hemlock Semiconductor is building a $1.2 billion polysilicon manufacturing facility to supply the solar industry. This plant will employ up to 1,500 workers during construction and 1,000 workers for permanent operations when completed later this year.
"Also in Tennessee is Sharp Solar’s panel factory located just south of Representative Blackburn’s district. The factory expanded in 2010 and has almost 500 employees.
"How do we keep this kind of solar job growth going? Much depends on the industry itself, our ability to innovate and plain old fashioned hard work. But federal policy also plays a key role. My written testimony includes detailed policy recommendations that will help ensure our domestic industry grows and not only create jobs, but reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy while improving our energy security.
"To succeed, we need tax policies such as the Section 1603 Treasury program to be continued and incentives for solar manufacturing restored.
"We also need policies that facilitate financing for clean energy technologies that cannot obtain financing in the commercial market place such as large scale nuclear and utility scale solar energy projects. To support these industries Congress should consider a variety of financing mechanisms, including the Clean Energy Development Administration. But what is most important today, is for Congress to restoring funding to the DOE loan guarantee program.
"Unfortunately, measures such as the provisions of the H.R. 1 continuing resolution that eliminate all funding for pending renewable and other non-nuclear loan guarantee applications are a step in the wrong direction.
"SEIA strongly opposes the provisions in H.R. 1 that would eliminate funding for DOE loan guarantees for solar and other non-nuclear clean energy projects.
"In its current form, H.R. 1 would likely kill as many as 30 clean energy projects representing tens of billions of dollars of economic development.
"With that it will kill jobs like Jim Amedeo’s – a solar plant operator in Illinois. The companies with pending applications have collectively invested hundreds of millions in developing solar projects in reliance on the loan guarantee program.
"SEIA respectfully requests that in the CR negotiations with the Senate, that the House reverse the cuts to the section 1705 loan guarantee program.
"In conclusion, SEIA, our 1,000 member companies and our workforce of 100,000 strong is eager to work with the Congress on important policy initiatives to continue to grow the solar industry and solar jobs.
"Once again, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee. I would be happy to answer any questions."
Rhone Resch Written Testimony:
Rhone Resch Testimony Slides: http://seia.org/galleries/pdf/Resch_Testimony_Slides_3.3.11.pdf
The U.S. Solar Market Insight™ Q3 ’10 report executive summary: http://www.seia.org/galleries/default-file/SEIA_Q3_2010_EXEC_SUMMARY.pdf (SMI Year in Review data to be released March 10, 2011)
2010 National Solar Jobs Census:
Press Statement: http://seia.org/cs/news_detail?pressrelease.id=1074
"U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2010" finds the U.S. is a net exporter of solar products:
Details on the solar energy companies operating in each state, plus examples of the jobs being created at the Solar Works for America site: www.SolarWorksforAmerica.org
See examples of how solar is working for America today: www.SolarGenerationUSA.org
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.