Private-sector energy industries, from 19th century coal up through 20th century oil, natural gas and nuclear energy, have been sustained through permanent, supportive federal policies. No energy sector in the United States has succeeded without help from the federal government. Support for solar energy and other alternative sources is not about politics or liberal ideology; it is about enhancing America’s energy security, creating real economic impact and building needed diversity into our domestic-energy portfolio.
But as history teaches us, it will take serious investments from both private and public sectors to make this transition a reality. The good news is that solar energy is emerging as a cost-effective option for millions of consumers and businesses. Through innovation, private investment and recent modest government support, the solar energy industry grew by 69 percent over the past year and now employs more than 100,000 Americans at 5,000 solar energy companies in all 50 states.
Since January 2010, the price for solar panels dropped by nearly one-third. Solar energy is helping America meet its high energy demands while building a growing market. Solar capacity in the United States now exceeds 3,100 megawatts – enough to power 630,000 homes. Solar is already the fastest growing energy sector in the United States and in the next few years, the United States is projected to become the world’s largest solar market.
In 2010, the U.S. solar industry had a positive trade flow of $1.9 billion and was even a net exporter to China. The promise of solar energy is here and getting stronger. Let’s not let one company’s inability to survive in a highly competitive global market prevent an entire industry from strengthening America’s energy future.
RHONE RESCH, President and CEO, Solar Energy Industry Association, www.seia.org/