Congressional Testimony: Solar Helping To Make America Stronger

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This week on Capitol Hill, decorated former Naval Officer Nat Kreamer, who serves as CEO of San Francisco-based Clean Power Finance and Vice Chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), delivered the following testimony to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee:

Mr. Chairman, Thank you for having me today.  My name is Nat Kreamer and I am the CEO of Clean Power Finance, which is a leading provider of financing and software to the US solar industry.  I am also the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the national Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), which represents the US solar industry. 

Returning home from Afghanistan in 2007, where I fought in the US Special Forces as a Navy Officer, I started the multi-billion-dollar residential solar financing industry, which helps hundreds of thousands of Americans save money on their electricity bills using clean, affordable, and domestic solar power, harvested right at their homes.

Americans who get their power from solar today can save money immediately on their utility bills. If they buy an electric car, they can fuel it for less than $0.10 per mile using solar electricity versus more than $0.20 per mile using gasoline. Those compelling economics are attracting hundreds of thousands of Americans to go solar now at home and at work.

Going solar makes our economy, defense, and environment stronger.  Going solar is patriotic.

Solar is making our economy stronger. Last year the solar industry grew 27%, making it among the fastest growing in the country, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. The industry’s growth is translating into more domestic jobs. Specifically, the US solar industry added approximately 24,000 domestic jobs in 2013, increasing the number of Americans working in solar to approximately 143,000, according to the non-partisan and non-profit Solar Foundation. In addition to the 143,000 Americans working for solar companies, many thousands more work for companies providing goods and services to the US solar industry. Today, more people work in the US solar industry than in the US coal industry—a win for our economy and environment.     

Solar provides valuable jobs for Americans.  For example, the US solar industry employs Americans in a broad set of jobs including: research and development, manufacturing, distribution, construction, finance, software development, as well as sales and marketing.  Furthermore, the wages for tradesmen working in solar are higher than US averages for similar jobs in other industries.  Domestic solar jobs are good ones.

American military veterans are particularly passionate about building the US solar industry and buying solar electricity. The US solar industry employees 22% more military veterans than the US economic average employment rate for veterans, according to The Solar Foundation. Military veterans represent more than 20% of the homeowners who get their power from a solar system on their roof today, according to SunRun, the leading residential solar company I co-founded after fighting in the US Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Veterans like me are building the US solar industry and going solar at home because we know first-hand that more clean, affordable, and domestic power makes America and the world safer.

Veterans are building the US solar industry because we view it as our patriotic duty to serve the nation. For example, while fighting in Afghanistan I realized that we had to cut off funding sources to terrorists and insurgents to permanently win the war. Using renewable energy at home denies jihadists the petro-dollars they use to buy bombs and bullets. I got ‘religion’ about renewable energy fighting in Afghanistan.

US solar companies hire veterans because we come trained, ready, and passionate. First, the US military is the best training institution in the country. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are motivated, disciplined, organized leaders who have the skills the solar industry requires to continue its rocket-fast growth. Second, the solar industry is filled with people who are passionate about the job and who work to help people, the environment, and national security. Solar, like the military, is not just about the paycheck; it is also about working for something larger than oneself.  Veterans working in solar get to serve our nation twice.

The US Department of Defense is investing in solar power because it is a force multiplier.  For example, the military is putting solar systems on the roofs of buildings at bases around the country. That solar electricity saves the military money it can invest in our national defense. Installing distributed solar systems on military bases improves their security by helping make bases self-sustaining and resilient to attack. US military units in the field are starting to use solar panels to generate electricity to run combat systems. Those solar panels make our fighting units more effective by reducing their reliance on vulnerable supply chains and expensive over-land diesel fuel deliveries for generators. It costs the US military approximately $50 per gallon for every gallon of diesel delivered to combat units in the field, according to the US Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office. An average solar panel costs approximately $150, creates as much energy as approximately 250 gallons of diesel fuel, and only has to be delivered once. Solar is a force multiplier for everyone wearing a uniform today.

Traditional power companies—utilities—are investing in solar because it makes them stronger too.  Duke Energy, Dominion, NextEra, Edison International, Integrys, Mid American, Exelon, ConEd, PSEG, NRG, and PG&E, among others, have invested billions in utility-scale and distributed solar power generation. Utilities investing in solar today—including five of the aforementioned that have invested with my company, Clean Power Finance—are doing so because solar power generation provides them a better return on investment than other power generation types. In addition to strong returns, utilities investing in solar enjoy strategic benefits including access to new markets and owning end-user relationships. Consequently, last year 20% of new power generation capacity in the US came from solar power, second only to natural gas, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Solar is strategic and profitable for utilities.

Using solar power makes our environment stronger. Solar protects precious fresh water resources. Power generation from fossil fuels evaporates 0.5 gallons per kilowatt power produced, according to the US Department of Energy. When you add this up, 41% of fresh water in America gets evaporated in power production using fossil fuel. Every new solar system installed saves a lot of water for drinking, agriculture, and wild life. We can use more of that water in the West right now—thank God we have sun to install more solar.

Going solar makes our economy, defense, and environment stronger.  Going solar is patriotic.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for having me today; I look forward to the committee’s questions.

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