DALLAS – Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) today addressed the Solar Power International 2011 conference and trade show at the Dallas Convention Center to welcome solar industry professionals from around the United States and the world.
Resch’s speech focused on the more than 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry and the need to extend the Section 1603 Treasury Program to maintain the industry’s momentum. Resch also addressed how the industry should not be viewed through the lens of one company – Solyndra – but rather as collectively the fastest growing industry in America.
Read the full text of the speech below:
Good afternoon everyone!
I want to personally welcome you to Texas. The center of our energy industry and one of the sunniest states in our country. Where people say “Don’t Mess with Texas.” And today I want to tell you “Don’t Mess with Solar Energy” either.
Analysts predict that the United States will be the largest solar market in the world and that solar will be the largest source of new electricity in the United States.
But there are those who dismiss solar outright.
Rush Limbaugh says that the solar industry doesn’t even exist. So I would to take this opportunity to set him straight:
The Solar Foundation’s jobs census released just today shows that we employ more than 100,000 Americans. And no industry in the country is growing faster than solar.
Our industry is made up of 5,000 American companies...most of them small businesses.
Over the last year alone, PV installations have grown by 69 percent. That’s 40 times faster than the rest of the economy.
Our industry, even in the toughest economic times, is creating jobs seven times faster than the rest of America.
And according to SEIA’s Trade Balance Report issued earlier this year, we are a net exporter of solar products, to the tune of 2 billion dollars in 2010. And we are even a net exporter to China.
And those are the facts. Not only are we a growing, thriving industry in this country, but we truly can say: Solar Works for America.
Don’t mess with solar energy, because the facts are on our side. And so is the American public. Our fourth annual SCHOTT Solar barometer shows that 9 out of 10 Americans feel we should develop and use more solar energy in this country.
I want to take a few moments to talk about our industry’s response to the Solyndra bankruptcy. The past few months have been tough on everyone, especially the employees of Solyndra. It is completely understandable that Congress is upset that Solyndra defaulted on their loan and is conducting congressional investigations. As a taxpayer, I am also upset. But the market conditions that drove down the price of solar panels and ultimately led to their collapse were historic. No one in 2008 predicted that the price of solar would be below 2 dollars per watt today, let alone approaching one dollar a watt.
At SEIA we have had a crisis communications team working 24/7 to track down every story and to respond. And to provide the industry with the latest facts and data to help you respond to your local media.
Our goal is to show the American public that solar is the fastest growing industry in the United States, creating jobs in all 50 states, and that we are an industry worth investing in. And to prove to pundits like Rush Limbaugh that it is a mistake to view our industry through the lens of just Solyndra.
SEIA will continue to be the industry’s voice and move the conversation forward.
And so today I want to talk to you about our future and what we are doing to keep that momentum going.
When we got together at SPI in Los Angeles last year, we set forth our industry’s vision of installing 10 gigawatts of solar capacity each year by 2015. 10 gigawatts – that’s roughly the size of 10 coal-fired power plants. It’s enough solar energy to power 2 million additional homes each and every year. And I am happy to report that we are on track to meet that target, including right here in Texas.
From the Blue Wing 16-megawatt Solar Energy Generation Facility in San Antonio to CPS Energy’s 400 megawatt distributed generation Program, Texas is going solar.
And this morning, we held an event to celebrate the installation of solar on 15 Habitat for Humanity homes right here in Dallas.
Each PV and solar water heating system will help cut utility bills, saving 15 families thousands of dollars each year. SEIA worked with the Habitat for Humanity here in Dallas and our SEIA member partners – SolarCity, Solar US and Trina Solar, as well as corporate partners Bosch Solar, Schletter Mounting, SES 21 and SolarTek -- to provide clean, solar energy to those who need it most.
Let’s thank these companies for donating their products and services and most importantly, their time to such a worthy cause.
And YET….while solar is working for Texas….we know that it could be doing a lot more.
Texas has the potential to be a MASSIVE solar market. To put it into perspective, the sunshine that falls on Texas each month has more energy than all of the oil that has ever been pumped out of this state. If you think oil made Texas great, just wait till you see what they do with solar.
But today, smaller, less sunny states are currently ahead of Texas. There’s no reason why New Jersey should have nearly 10 times more solar installed than Texas. That’s like the Princeton Tigers football team coming down to Texas and putting a whooping on the Longhorns. That’s just wrong.
Texas is the energy capital of the world. It’s about time for Texas to become the solar energy capital of the world. And so we need everyone from policy makers in Austin to energy business leaders in Houston to start building a solar industry here in Texas.
Now, let’s take a look at the national picture.
We’re seeing growth across all solar technologies. Let’s look at solar water heating first.
Last year solar water heating grew by 5 percent.
And solar pool heating grew by 13 percent. Combined they installed over 66 thousand systems with the equivalent of 814 megawatts thermal.
There are great examples across the country of individual companies installing solar and creating jobs. Over the last two years, FLS Energy and Atlantic Marine Corps Communities have installed 2,200 solar hot water systems on military bases.
And in 2011 we saw the first solar water heating system tied to a district heating network by District Energy of St. Paul, Minnesota. They installed a one megawatt peak system on top of the local convention center and are sending the excess thermal energy to more than 185 buildings and 300 residents.
You may not realize that the hot water you use to wash your hands here at the Dallas Convention Center is courtesy of, you guessed it, solar energy.
The solar electric market is also growing across the country.
The commercial market continues to be the largest in the United States. In the second quarter, commercial PV installations grew by 200 percent over last year and for the first time, New Jersey surpassed California as the largest commercial market.
The residential market has also seen strong growth with over 60 megawatts of new installations in the second quarter alone. The fastest growing state was Hawaii who saw a 48 percent increase in the last year.
The result isn’t just success for your business, it’s money in the pockets of homeowners. Earlier this year, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a study that confirmed what we knew all along: adding solar to your home increases its value by thousands of dollars.
The utility-scale solar market grew by 171 percent in the last year and we expect nearly 800 megawatts of utility solar to come online this year. We’ve commenced construction on over 600 megawatts of new CSP plants and nearly 3,000 megawatts of utility-scale PV projects. And for those of you who think utility-scale solar is only for the Southwest, you’ll be surprised to know that the second largest state for utility solar in the second quarter was the second smallest state in the country – Delaware.
So regardless of the technology or the location, utility-scale solar projects are one of the most impactful ways for our country to move away from polluting coal-fired power plants towards clean, solar power.
But it’s about more than clean power. As I have mentioned several times today, the solar industry is creating real jobs. We are creating jobs for engineers and construction workers. Steel fabricators and electricians. Accountants and salesmen. Manufacturing workers and, of course, lawyers. Where would we be without our lawyers?
Solar is also reinvigorating the manufacturing base of our economy. Since last year we opened 30 new solar factories and now have over 400 manufacturing plants supporting the solar industry in the United States.
Americans with manufacturing experience – many of whom had been laid off due to the recession – are finding new careers in solar.
And let me tell you…These solar products aren’t just made in America…for America. Today, they’re made in America … for the rest of the world.
In late August, SEIA and GTM Research announced that the United States is a net exporter of solar materials, components and products to the world, even, surprisingly, to China. In fact, our net exports grew in the last year and we now export $2 billion more than we import.
All of these companies and the people they employ are examples of how our industry is growing and helping to restore the U.S. economy.
And SEIA is telling our story at Solar Works for America Dot Org. Check out the site and if you want to tell your story there as well, let us know. This website is a great resource in our effort to push back on those who don’t think solar is real and we need your story.
We want to get the word out that solar works for America, in every state. And we need your help.
Stop by the SEIA booth and pick up one of these eye-catching bumper stickers. It’s guaranteed to increase the value of your car or truck. I need you to show your community that you are part of the solar industry.
100,000 American jobs. Over 3,100 megawatts of clean solar power in place and more than 4,000 megawatts under construction. A positive trade balance with China. Solar works for America.
To build upon that success, we need to understand what got us here and what it will take to expand our industry even further.
A big part of that is federal policy. The 1603 Treasury Program, along with the underlying solar investment tax credit, is hands-down one of the most successful policies ever enacted to deploy renewable energy. Its return on investment to the taxpayer is the best of any policy in place today. It has allowed the development of more than 19 thousand solar projects in 47 states and the District of Columbia and supported over 4.4 billion dollars in economic investment.
Securing the one-year extension of the 1603 program last year was a big victory for solar – and SEIA delivered it for you.
Well, guess what. We have to do it all over again. I have to admit that I feel a little like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. But the truth of the matter is that our financial markets are still struggling. By many accounts, they are in worse shape than they were a year ago. Which is why we are advocating to extend the 1603 program.
And once again, we have the facts on our side. According to an independent report that SEIA commissioned from EuPD Research, released only a few days ago, an extension of the 1603 program even for just one year will support 37,000 additional jobs and deploy 2,000 additional megawatts of solar capacity.
Let me repeat that – 37,000 new jobs next year.
Now let me be clear: SEIA will be working flat out this fall to extend this program.
But we need your help.
Today our challenge is even greater than it was last year. We face highly financed opponents that don’t want to see us succeed. We face lawmakers who are spinning the bankruptcy of Solyndra as an indicator of our entire industry.
We need to be clear that judging the health of an entire industry based on the failure of a single company is shortsighted at best, and destructive at worst.
We need to be clear that letting 1603 program expire is the equivalent of raising taxes on one of the few industries that is adding jobs in this country.
And above all…we need to be clear that America should be doing everything it can to keep industries like solar growing, creating jobs and improving our country’s global competitiveness.
So, what can you do?
First, more than ever, we need you to reach out to your members of Congress and your local media. Tell them your story and the story of our industry. Supply them with facts from SEIA’s research. Establish relationships with your members of Congress. Take the time to visit their offices both on Capitol Hill and back home in your state. And join our grassroots network.
Our industry depends upon policy just like every other energy technology out there. Your business succeeds because organizations like SEIA open up markets through policy. That is why, I need you to become a member of national SEIA. I need you and your company to be part of our industry’s association as we work together to extend the 1603 program. It is just too damn important to ignore any more. This is what makes the oil and the pharmaceutical industries so powerful – their companies support their trade association. It is time to stop being a free rider and support your trade association. So get off your butts, go down to our booth tomorrow and join SEIA!
We have champions in Congress who are working for solar in America. Our industry’s political action committee, SolarPAC allows us to support those members of Congress who support solar. In fact, we are hosting an event tonight, the 2nd annual SolarPAC Casino Night, immediately following the opening reception over at Union Station, just a short walk from the opening night reception. The event is a great way to learn more about SolarPAC, network with industry friends and most importantly, have fun! 2012 is a critically important election year and we need to participate in a way that benefits an industry of our stature. If you are a member of SEIA, please consider learning more about SolarPAC.
Beyond 1603 there is a lot that SEIA is doing to grow our markets. For one, SEIA is working to improve the financing of solar, including the development of the clean energy bank, allowing Master Limited Partnerships the ability to use tax credits, focusing the Export-Import Bank on developing this country, not foreign countries, giving the federal government the ability to enter in to power purchase agreements, and for once and for all to fix PACE financing in this country.
Fighting for federal policy isn’t the only avenue we have to continue our industry’s growth.
Smart state policies have made the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast market the largest in the U.S., surpassing even California.
We see other states competing for solar leadership as well, such as Tennessee in the south, Oregon in the northwest and Ohio in the Midwest. And if the state legislature makes the right choices, you can’t count out Texas.
That is why SEIA, as the national trade association for the solar industry, decided now is the time to take a leadership role in state and local policies to complement our federal level work.
I am happy to announce that SEIA and the Solar Alliance are merging, creating a singular voice of the industry at both the state and federal level. And that Solar Alliance president Carrie Cullen Hitt will be leading the State Legislative Affairs department at SEIA and expanding our efforts to secure policies and programs at the state level. Carrie, please stand up and be recognized for all that you do for this industry.
We are very excited to bring together these two great organizations—united by one goal—to work on your behalf, in the halls of Congress and state houses across America, to keep solar WORKING for America.
Also in support of our state efforts, SEIA has formalized its relationships with its long-time allies – SEIA state chapters—who play a critical role in moving state markets forward and have been doing so for decades.
This year and going forward, SEIA and its chapters will be working even more closely together to help you. Today I am proud to say we have 4 official SEIA chapters – California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon, with 15 more coming online soon across the country. In fact, tomorrow, SEIA will be forging a new relationship with Texas SEIA as well as welcoming a brand new chapter representing the Gulf Coast States of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
This combined and coordinated effort, along with our longstanding relationships with Vote Solar, the Large Scale Solar Association and other advocates will significantly improve our industry’s ability to advance pro-solar policies at the state level.
From Washington to Dallas. From Austin to Sacramento. SEIA will be leading the way to secure federal, state and local policies to help grow your business, open up new markets and achieve our 10 gigawatt goal.
But the reality of our situation is that our challenges aren’t limited to the state house or the Capitol.
At SEIA we are developing other programs and tools to address these challenges and help you grow your business in this difficult economy.
This past July we held our second solar project finance conference. We assembled some of the most talented financial minds in the industry to discuss some of our biggest challenges and provide solutions for your company. There is nothing better than one-on-one time with the smartest people in our industry, so make sure you don’t miss our next finance conference, this coming January in New York City.
Along with our partner GTM Research, we are also hosting the first ever U.S. Solar Market Insight Conference in San Francisco on November 16th and 17th. The U.S. Solar Market Insight report series has quickly become the industry’s go-to source for information about the U.S. market and the Conference will be the fastest way to keep up with our rapidly evolving markets in the United States. Having this information could make the difference between being profitable or not this next year.
In addition to these and our second Siting and Permitting Seminar in December, SEIA will be offering 2 new educational events in the first quarter of 2012: the Solar Intellectual Property Conference and the Installer Safety Seminar and Expo. All of these conferences are designed to take a deep dive into critical issues facing the industry, and to help you create relationships to strengthen your business.
And knowing that small businesses are the backbone of our industry and need specialized resources, we’ve created a small business resource center that can be accessed through the member section of our website, SEIA.org. This resource center provides legal document templates, marketing and PR guides, discounts on vendor services, information on local policy issues, access to free business software and more.
We’re also educating the public through a broadcast TV public service announcement. Last year we kicked it off at SPI and since that time the Solar Generation USA Road Trip has been viewed more than 1 billion times – that’s right, 1 billion times - in nearly 250 markets across America. That’s about 3 million impressions per day. You can see the PSA at SEIA’s booth.
And going forward our Board of Directors has asked us to work on a series of issues that go way beyond pure policy, but will help grow the industry and increase your profitability. From fire safety best practices, to establishing solar-friendly building codes. From model permitting to installer training and certification, SEIA is becoming the one-stop shop for the solar industry.
Lastly, to meet the needs of an industry that is growing and becoming more sophisticated, SEIA itself has expanded. Since just last year, we’ve nearly doubled the number of staff on our team – from research to member services to trade and competitiveness to government affairs. Stop by and visit us at our booth inside exhibition Hall C and meet some of our staff. I am extremely proud of our team at SEIA and I encourage you all to get to know us all better.
As I close, let me thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve worked hard to build solar into the fastest growing industry in America today. And working together, we can achieve much more.
Together, WE WILL continue to grow this industry and create the energy and jobs Americans need.
Together, we will make America the largest market and world leader for solar.
Together, we will remind this country that good things are still made in America. That hard work and innovation can move this country forward.
We came here to Dallas as individuals that collectively make up the solar industry. Let’s leave Dallas united by the idea that Solar Works for America; that we all work for America; and that we are an industry that is working to keep America great.
Thank you very much.
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.