Last week, several members joined me and other SEMI PV Group staff for an education mission to Capital Hill in support of US renewable energy legislation as part of our annual Washington Forum. A number of factors made this year’s energy outreach to the US Congress especially more urgent and more compelling. With the oil leak crisis in the Gulf of Mexico reaching catastrophic proportions, legislators were especially open to solar policy positions conveyed by our group of technology and business leaders. And, with a stubborn recession influencing upcoming elections, the economic and employment benefits of sound, renewable energy policies struck a surprising chord with many legislators.
The Washington Forum is held annually to press decision makers to support policies promoting a strong high tech industry in the United States. It is a critical tool to present our member companies’ policy interests directly with Members of Congress and Administration officials. After a day of training and briefing meetings with SEMI lobbyists and staff, meetings are arranged in congressional offices and with key agencies to advocate and explain critical policies that benefit solar PV. This year, almost 20 face-to-face meetings were held with Members of Congress, their senior staff and relevant officials within the federal agencies.
Our key messages
- Pass energy legislation this year, including the implementation of a strong national renewable energy standard (RES) to help drive the market for increased deployment of Solar PV.
- Establish a Clean Energy Deployment Administration/Green Bank to assist in the financing of qualified renewable energy projects. Unlike the Department of Energy’s existing loan guarantee program, the Green Bank would make loans to qualifying companies and provide a range of different types of financing assistance.
- Extend the 30% alternative energy manufacturing tax credit (MTC) tax credit to build or refurbish manufacturing facilities to make renewable energy or energy efficiency technologies through 2012. The credit currently capped at $2.3B is an incentive for companies that manufacture renewable energy producing equipment to locate their manufacturing facilities in the United States.
We broke up into several teams to cover as many critical meetings in one day as possible. I was supported by a strong team with executives from KLA-Tencor, Oerlikon Solar, Applied Materials, and DuPont. We visited the offices of Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-AZ), Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and with officials from the Department of Energy. Another group of members met with other legislators to cover a wider spectrum of key decision makers. Many of these legislators are key solar energy industry supporters and work closely with SEMI Washington staff on policy and legislative strategy. The Washington Forum–combined with our ongoing lobbying efforts and other Washington activities–reinforces our influence on Capital Hill and reminds legislators that we represent an essential sector in the US economy.
As part of the Washington Forum activities, we presented Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) with the industry’s 2010 North American Government Leadership Award, which recognizes policymakers in the United States who have demonstrated outstanding leadership on issues and policies that support U.S. microelectronics and photovoltaic manufacturing. (Pictured Left to Right: Jonathan Davis, President of SEMI North America; New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman; SEMI North America Advisory Board Chairman and CEO and President of MKS Instruments, Inc. Leo Berlinghieri). Bingaman is the Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and a member of the Senate Finance Committee. He spearheaded energy legislation that was passed by committee in June 2009, which includes provisions for a renewable energy standard and the creation of the Green Bank.
The impact of government policies on the US PV market, like other PV markets around the world, is massive. From local building permits and utility interconnect policies, to state electric rates and federal legislation—the growth and prosperity of our industry is directly linked to our ability to modernize the public policy environment for energy. At the federal level, innumerable policies and programs are being considered that will directly affect US PV Group members and everyone who does business in our industry. While the prospects for major federal legislation are uncertain in this election year, components of sound and supportive solar policy will continue to be debated in a variety of forums for the next several years. In addition to Green Bank and RPS issues, the PV Group is also working this year to influence the Solar Technology Roadmap Act (H.R. 3585), the Department of Energy PV Manufacturing Initiative, the Renewable Energy Jobs and Security Act, and other bills and regulatory policies important to our members.
Effective government polices in support of solar PV is essential to our members, to the US economy, and to everyone on the planet. Current federal energy policy is heavily skewed towards oil and gas interests who’ve had a long and well-financed presence in Washington. Solar PV is a young industry with only a small fraction of the resources of traditional energy players. The transformation of US energy policy will take time, effort and money. It is critical that policy makers be informed of the enormous potential that solar PV can bring to our energy future. Activities like the Washington Forum help us accelerate this transformation. Thank you to all those who made this year’s Forum a success and to all our members who support our voice in Washington.
PV Group, The Grid – May 2010
By Bettina Weiss, Sr. Director, PV Group