Bright Ideas Blog, clean energy policy, Solar

Five Reasons to Be Thankful for the State of Solar in 2016

Like many Americans, the election results caught me by surprise. After staying up too late watching returns, I had to catch a 5:30am flight to an ironic destination: a solar conference. Looking around the audience at Solar Power PV Conference in Chicago on November 9, there were a lot of bleary-eyed stares. People grumbled their “hellos” and the group was not in a collectively good mood.

The same question was on everyone’s mind:  What now?

Being in Chicago – and not San Francisco, where most solar conferences take place – the discussions quickly took on a pragmatically Midwestern tone. Sure, there were protests going on just a few blocks away. And yes, Donald Trump had talked about canceling the Clean Power Plan.

Into this anxiety-laden room walked Tom Kimbis, Interim Executive Director of SEIA, who had the dubious honor of facing this crowd.

“We will persevere, and we will thrive together, through unity. The kind of unity that hasn’t been seen since solar was commercialized. Unity on policies that show our strength, unity on common issues with key allies, not just in solar but beyond,” Kimbis encouraged.

“Solar is here to stay.”

So in the lead up to Thanksgiving, let’s take a pause and be grateful for the work that has already been done to create an industry that is viable, successful and thriving. Then let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work, making solar more vital to the energy industry than ever.

In that spirit, here are my top 5 reasons to be grateful for solar’s progress this holiday season.

5          The ITC was extended last year, before election politics got in the way. We could even see a renewal of the ITC in 2021. But by then, we may not need it. The ITC has helped the industry grow at a 60% compound annual growth rate since it was initially passed in 2006, with solar pricing continuing to plummet.

4          Solar is a bi-partisan issue.  While there are deep partisan divides over expanding fossil fuel energies, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats both support expanding solar and wind generation, according to the Pew Research Center. Let’s do what we can to keep it that way.

3          Solar is reaching critical mass. It took us 40 years to get to 1 million solar installations in the U.S. and SEIA estimates it will take only 2 years to get to another 1 million.  We are riding a wave of momentum that will be hard to slow down.

2          Residential solar is already at grid parity in 20 states. With or without a Clean Power Plan, distributed generation solar makes economic sense and is already relieving thousands of people from high electric bills. And solar is a great hedge against uncertain economic times ahead.

1          You can’t argue with success.  Solar employs more than 209,000 people, more than double the number in 2010. While there’s a lot of talk about “clean coal” it has yet to be proven commercially viable. Solar is working today. That’s not rhetoric. That’s business.

So let’s be thankful for our blessings.

And then let’s get right back to building this incredible industry.

There is work to be done. And not a moment to waste on whining.