(Washington, DC) – The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today announced that U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) is the Republican winner of its 2008 National Solar Energy Champion Award, citing his strong support and leadership on solar energy-related issues in the U.S. Congress.
“Senator Smith has long been an advocate for solar energy and understands the potential of the industry to be an economic engine in Oregon and throughout the country,” said Rhone Resch, president of SEIA. “As a member of the Senate Finance Committee he has been a leader in promoting long-term tax credits for solar as a key component of America’s energy policy and that is why we are proud to name him SEIA’s 2008 Solar Energy Champion of the Year.”
As a member of the Senate Finance and the Energy and Natural Resources Committees, Senator Smith has played a key role in forging a bipartisan compromise to extend the solar investment tax credit (ITC). Senator Smith has supported these efforts over the last 4 years and two Congresses.
“I have been proud to work with the Solar Energy Industries Association to ensure that we have the right incentives in place for residential and commercial solar development," said Smith. "My home state has seen firsthand the benefits of a growing solar industry. I am very encouraged that more companies are moving to Oregon and providing family wage jobs with green energy resources.”
After nine attempts, the Senate – with Senator Smith’s leadership – passed H.R. 6049, the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 on Sept. 23. The bill would extend the solar tax credits for 8 years, for both commercial and residential consumers. The legislation is currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. If no action is taken the solar tax credits expire Dec. 31.
The Senate bill makes several major improvements that Senator Smith has long advocated for that would put solar energy within reach for all Americans. These include a complete elimination of the $2,000 cap for residential solar electric systems and an expansion of the credits to allow utilities to make use of the commercial tax credit and to allow those taxpayers that trigger AMT (alternative minimum tax) to qualify for the solar tax credit.
These credits would create a stable climate for investment and job growth in the photovoltaics, solar thermal, and concentrating solar power industries. If the 8-year extension becomes law, it will create 21,000 new job opportunities including 10,000 permanent jobs by 2016 in Oregon, according to a Sept. 15 study released by Navigant Consulting.
The study reported that nationwide 440,000 permanent jobs and $325 billion in investment would be spurred by the solar sector alone. Navigant Consulting noted that 28,000 megawatts of solar power would be installed by 2016, enough to power 7 million households.
Senator Smith’s selection as Solar Champion was applauded by the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association. Oregon is home to more than 80 solar manufacturers, installers, dealers and project developers.
“Members of Oregon SEIA thank and congratulate Senator Gordon Smith for all of his work on behalf of the Oregon solar industry,” said Desari Strader, Executive Director of Oregon SEIA.
SEIA will announce the Democratic recipient of the award next month.
Solar Energy Industries Association is the national trade association of 700 solar energy manufacturers, project developers, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and financiers. Established in 1974, SEIA works to expand the use of solar technologies in the global marketplace, strengthen research and development, remove market barriers, and improve education and outreach for solar. Learn more at www.seia.org.