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100 Gigawatts of Domestic Manufacturing Capacity by 2030

Wednesday, Sep 09 2020

John Smirnow
solar module assembly

Photo Courtesy of PV Evolution Labs

You probably heard the arguments why U.S. solar manufacturing can’t compete. Our labor costs are too high. It’s all automated so there aren’t that many jobs anyways. And it’s too late, we can’t catch-up with other countries.

But what about the fact that there are already tens of thousands of Americans employed in renewable energy manufacturing; that manufacturing has the highest jobs multiplier of any industry; or that the U.S. has some of the best research laboratories in the world?

It is time to invest in the promise of American renewable energy manufacturing. Today, SEIA is setting a target of 100 GW of domestic renewable energy manufacturing capacity by 2030, with a particular focus on solar, wind, and energy storage technologies. Right now, we are about a quarter of the way there. This goal is consistent with our aspirations of having solar energy account for 20% of all electricity generation by 2030. And it fits with a collective goal by the renewable energy industries—wind, solar and hydropower with storage, to hit 50% of all electricity by the end of the decade.

The 100 GW target is designed to increase the United States’ ability to supply not only domestic renewable energy projects but also export markets. The target also recognizes the benefits of an integrated global supply chain and an important role for imports. It is not intended to isolate U.S. renewable energy industries from the rest of the world, and we continue to recognize that tariffs are ineffective at incentivizing domestic manufacturing.

But we also know that renewable energy manufacturing is an intensely competitive sector, and that overseas manufacturers are often supported by generous tax incentives and access to low cost capital. To compete in this environment, it is essential that the U.S. government likewise commit to investing in its manufacturers.

Federal investments must focus, first and foremost, on leveraging private sector commitments. These investments must also be long-term in nature, in this case, over the course of a decade. In addition, renewable energy manufacturing investments must include both supply and demand incentives. As we have seen, one without the other cannot sustain a strong U.S. manufacturing base in the face of intense global competition.

What is required is a comprehensive package of state and federal investments including, for example, research and development support, low cost loans, and manufacturing tax credits. It is also possible that different segments of the industry will require unique investment solutions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

SEIA recognizes both the necessity of growing domestic renewable energy manufacturing and the immense challenge of the task at hand, and we’re committed to making a difference. To help further this conversation, we present The Solar+ Decade & American Renewable Energy Manufacturing: 100 GW by 2030. This report makes clear that we can support a growing solar economy to the benefit of all sectors if we are smart about how we do it.

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