PHILADELPHIA - Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (R) (SEIA(R)) today addressed the Opening General Session at the PV America Conference 2011 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia to welcome small business owners, entrepreneurs, global corporate executives and energy leaders from around the country to the only conference focused solely on the fastest growing segment of the solar industry - photovoltaic solar (PV), the technology that converts sunlight to electricity.
Mr. Resch's speech highlighted solar PV's tremendous growth in 2010, its potential for 2011 and how the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region is now the largest market for PV in the United States. In total, 878 megawatts (MW) of PV capacity was installed in 2010, more than doubling 2009 installation totals. Smart federal and state policies, completion of significant utility-scale projects, expansion of new state markets and declining manufacturing and installation costs drove the industry's U.S. expansion. Below is the full text of his remarks:
"Good morning everyone!
"It's great to have the PV America conference and tradeshow back in Philadelphia, the heart of the largest solar market in the United States. That's right, the mid-Atlantic region, from NC to southern New England, installed more solar in 2010 than the entire state of California.
"When we were here two years ago I spoke about the great potential for solar in this region. And you have delivered. From new policy initiatives to innovative business models the solar industry has become a major economic engine in the Mid-Atlantic.
"What you have done over the past few years is reverberating around the world. When I was in China earlier this year, the conversations were not about Europe - but about America, and its path to become the world's largest solar market within two years. And in the U.S., companies want to learn about the market growth outside of California- the new markets that are springing up across the country. And this region is leading that charge.
"Today I would like to talk about how solar has grown over the last year, where we are headed, and the challenges and opportunities we face in getting there.
"Let's start by taking a look at how far the U.S. solar energy industry has come recently and the record-breaking growth that we have experienced.
"Over the last several years, we have turned SEIA into the central data collection and market analysis group for you, the solar industry. We have stepped up our research and analysis capabilities, worked with both Wall Street and the White House, and are rolling out a series of definitive studies, reports and tools to help the industry grow and to tell the true story of solar in America.
"Through our partnership with GTM Research, we recently published our flagship market report, U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2010 Year in Review.
"This report shows that we installed 878 megawatts of grid connected PV in 2010; more than double what was installed in 2009.
"The report also shows that U.S. solar revenue grew from $3.7 billion to more than $6 billion a year. A growth rate of 67 percent, while the rest of the US economy grew at less than 3 percent."
"We also attracted more venture capital than any other industry in the U.S.
"And in the last 18 months our industry has started building more than 50 new factories here in the US to support the solar industry.
"In fact, I am thrilled to announce that the solar energy industry is now the fastest growing industry in America!
"Let me repeat that.
"The solar industry is the fastest growing industry in America! We are growing faster than wind energy, faster than telecommunications, and, thank goodness, we are even growing faster than the mortgage foreclosure industry!
"What this means to you and your business, is opportunity. Opportunity to grow, opportunity to innovate, opportunity to make a difference in revolutionizing the way the US generates our electricity.
"One of the defining characteristics of the US market is its diversity. That fact became even more apparent during 2010. And it's one of the reasons that the world is looking to America as the next great solar market.
"The U.S. market showed strong growth not only in one market segment in 2010 - but across all three segments - residential, commercial and utility-scale.
"The residential market grew by 68 percent in 2010.
"The commercial market grew by 79 percent last year.
"And finally the utility market, the fastest growing, grew by an incredible 246 percent.
"We are seeing unprecedented geographic diversity as well. Since we are winding up March Madness with the championship game in Houston tonight, I like to call this my Sweet Sixteen map. Last year, 16 states installed more than 10 MW; that's up from 4 states in 2007.
"Already, the Mid-Atlantic region is beating California as the largest market in the U.S. for PV installations.
"It is no secret that New Jersey has been a driving force for growth in the region and that did not change in 2010.
"The New Jersey market grew by 139 percent and became only the second state to install more than 100 MW in a single year.
"And right here in Pennsylvania one of the fastest growing states, you installed enough new capacity last year to power more than 9,000 homes. Since the last time I stood here on this stage - only two years ago, this state's solar market has grown 1,000 percent. Remarkable.
"This is a trend we are seeing in state after state in this region.
"Going forward, the Mid-Atlantic region presents one of the biggest opportunities in the country for you to grow your business.
"To give you an idea just how much potential for PV is in your backyard, SEIA and GTM Research are projecting that there will be demand for more than 3 gigawatts (GW) of new PV in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region by 2015.
"Think about it. That's enough solar to power more than half a million homes.
"And business opportunities in this market are not just in developing projects. Solar is also helping to revive the American manufacturing base in places like Perrysburg, Ohio; Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania; and Newark, Delaware.
"While there were a few plant closures in 2010, our industry started building over 50 new factories in the last 18 months in the US.
"More and more as our industry looks at the North American market, companies realize that the US is the natural location for their next factory.
"In 2010, U.S. manufacturers significantly increased output, with our analysis showing close to doubling production of cells and wafers and 62 percent growth in module assembly.
"One of the best results of our growth is that we are hiring workers by the thousands, in all 50 states.
"In fact, every day more than 100,000 Americans are going to work at well-paying, stable jobs at solar businesses, from small installers all the way up to Fortune 500 companies and that number is expected to grow by another 20,000 by the end of the year.
"Right here in the middle of coal country, more than 7,000 Pennsylvanians have found work in the solar industry. The same number as are working in the coal mines in this state.
"But lets be honest, we did not become the fastest growing industry in the U.S. by accident.
"Our markets are catalyzed by smart, cost-effective policies that have leveraged brilliant technological innovation and revolutionary business plans by solar companies. As with every energy technology: coal, nuclear, oil and gas, policy is critical.
"We are working hard to develop the policy infrastructure at the state and federal level to ensure a level playing field for your business.
"We are developing new, business-friendly policies that will create strong, sustainable markets. And in this region of the country, the mid Atlantic, elected officials are working with us to create innovative, market-based programs that deploy solar. Let's take a look at a couple of examples:
"If you think the New Jersey market is hot now, just wait. Last year the state passed the Solar Advancement Act which encourages utilities to buy more solar electricity from in-state sources. Over the next 15 years this requirement will grow by 1700 percent.
"New Jersey also benefits from the most mature and, more importantly, investor-trusted SREC market in the country, which helps to finance projects with multi-year SREC contracts. And when combined with PSE&G's Solar Loan Program, policy makers have created an environment where NJ projects are some of the easiest to finance in the country.
"The New Jersey experience should be viewed by policymakers across the country as a case study in how to grow a sustainable PV market in a short time with smart policy.
"Pennsylvania's breakout came in 2010 fueled by three factors: 1) The creation of Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar Rebate program, 2) Federal Recovery Act funding for non-residential projects, and 3) the emergence of Pennsylvania's SREC program."
"We expect another strong year for the Keystone State.
"Massachusetts is on the cusp of seeing its own SREC program take off. With the waning of the Commonwealth Solar rebate program, Massachusetts is turning toward an SREC market.
"Our members report that the SREC program is beginning to gain steam and we anticipate that the Massachusetts market will boom in the second half of the year. With your hard work and an economy looking to turn around, Massachusetts may be the next New Jersey.
"And the list of state's developing innovative programs goes on and on.
"I encourage you to check out our great breakout sessions this week to learn more about how these smart policies are helping grow markets in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region.
"As we all know, domestic energy markets rely on both state and federal policy to work together.
"Over the last 6 years we have had great success in Washington, and now Members of Congress are seeing the high return on investment that solar gives the American public.
"The buzzer beater for 2010 was the last minute extension of the 1603 Treasury Program for renewable energy projects.
"This is a program that has created tens of thousands of jobs nationwide, spurred thousands of projects in 47 states and supported $22 billion in investment.
"The extension of 1603 was a team effort lead by SEIA, your trade association.
"In total, we were able to mobilize more than 20,000 people to send messages to Congress supporting an extension of the program -- through email, phone and even Twitter and Facebook.
"We had CEO fly-ins, hundreds of Hill meetings and major press teleconferences. We conducted complex studies on jobs and profiled individuals who are working in the solar industry. We worked with Governors, unions and the environmental community all uniting with a single ask.
"It was a big win that a lot of people said couldn't get done. But we won because we were professional, vocal and we presented a consistent voice on the issue. This is what we can accomplish when we all work together.
"The fact is our industry continues to face significant challenges and hurdles that will require us to work together even more closely.
"The biggest challenge facing the solar industry today - whether you are installing small or large systems - is financing.
"To improve the financing of solar projects SEIA has put together a multi-faceted policy initiative:
"First, SEIA is advocating for a multi-year extension of the 1603 program. An initiative that already has the support of President Obama.
"Second, we need a Clean Energy Bank to provide long-term low cost financing by an institution that understands our technology and is willing to finance projects.
"Third, we need to modify the tax code to bring more investors into the solar industry. Specifically we need to allow Master Limited Partnership to be able to use the tax credits.
"Fourth, the federal government must be given the ability to enter into long-term electricity contracts under a power purchase agreement.
"Finally, we need to develop a national clean energy standard that deploys solar. Providing policy certainty for our markets is critical to attract the tens of billions of dollars necessary for us to achieve our goals.
"But it's not just financing that needs an overhaul.
"We also need to reduce the red tape that is holding your business back.
"I have spoken to so many of you about the mountains of paperwork you have to fill out, the maze of local, county and state offices you have to interact with, just to connect a new system to the grid.
"We need national standards that cut the red tape preventing you from reaching new customers.
"These advanced policies will support the growth of solar in all market segments.
"But success in the past does not guarantee success in the future and we will be calling on you to step up your efforts from last year.
"What can you do to help?
"We need you to call your Congressmen, show them the projects you are building and tell them about the American jobs you are creating right in their districts. Those are the most important messages they can receive- and they have to come from you, not from SEIA
"As I mentioned, the US market is based on both federal and state policy and there is a lot of work that we can do in statehouses in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as well.
"First and foremost, in this age of budget cutting and austerity, we have to defend the investments that policymakers have already made.
"Look what happened in the last year in Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
"These are the kind of threats to solar that you will have to push back against in your own statehouses here in the Mid-Atlantic.
"There will also be new opportunities.
"We have a great opportunity up in Albany this summer to create a solar requirement in the state's RES that would require 5 (GW) of new solar by 2025.
"In the coming weeks, SEIA will be calling on you to take action. I'll need every single one of you New Yorkers to go back to your community and with your customers, friends and family, tell your state representative and state senator to pass the Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act.
"In addition to promoting specific policies, we also need governments at every level to embrace solar. Public solar installations help instill confidence in these technologies that Americans want to understand, and provide great marketing for our industry.
"And in fact, very soon, the most famous building in America is doing just that.
"Finally, in a few months, the White House is expected to switch on its new solar electric system.
"That's right the White House will once again be going solar!
"While this is a critical milestone for the industry and the advancement of U.S. solar. We need to do the same in every state.
"Talk to your governor, your state lawmakers, and your mayor and ask them to go solar.
"Every governor's mansion and every city hall and every first responder building in the U.S. should have solar panels.
"Our leaders should be showing the way to a clean energy economy.
"In the last several months, we have witnessed events across the globe change the course of history. Some have been inspiring. Others, devastating. These events are still unfolding with unclear outcomes.
"What is clear is that the debate on the future of energy has changed dramatically. Millions of people are awakening to the fact that solar must be a substantial part of our nation's energy mix.
Last fall we laid out an aggressive, but achievable goal: installing 10 GW of new solar capacity every single year, enough to power two million homes, starting in 2015.
"The Mid-Atlantic is a major part of this vision.
"But to get there we have to work as a team to make sure that the policy mechanisms are in place to help provide certainty to these markets, so solar businesses have the freedom to succeed.
"And we must continue to drive down costs, ultimately making solar more accessible to Mid-Atlantic and Northeast customers.
"And SEIA will help you.
"For those of you that are small businesses, I invite you to go online to SEIA's Small Business Resource Center, where you'll find outstanding tools designed to help you reduce costs and increase your productivity.
"We are offering a suite of webinars for our members designed to help you do your job better and add value to your customers.
"We are providing outreach and education about the benefits of solar in order to drive more customers to your door.
"To get to that industry-wide 10 GW goal, we are going to need all of you here to be out front, leading the way. To advocate fiercely for your business, and the policies at the state and federal level that will help to accelerate our growth in the U.S. economy.
"Don't forget, just five years ago the U.S. PV market was 72 MW. And this year we will install over 2 GW. We are the fastest growing industry in the U.S. and if we work together to open up markets and drive down our costs, then we will remain the fastest growing industry for years to come.
"Thank you for being here at PV America and I look forward to meeting with many of you this week.
Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association(R) is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA(R) is working to build a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA(R) 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.