Sunday Jan 29, 2023

Let’s supercharge the growth of clean energy – The Hill


The race to rebuild the economy and stabilize the climate has recently been threatened from an unexpected corner — a highly technical trade dispute about the origin of solar panels.

Solar and other forms of clean energy have been on a roll. Billions of dollars have been invested, with billions more in private capital poised to enter the market. It’s become one of the fastest-growing job creators in America. And, crucially in this time of high energy prices, solar is now the cheapest form of new energy in many places. But that momentum was suddenly at risk.

That’s because one of the possible outcomes of the trade complaint filed with the Department of Commerce is punitive tariffs. Fear of those tariffs — which could be applied retroactively — instantly threw cold water on solar projects across the United States.

Solar installers also knew the tariffs would mean losing access to the low-cost panels that have helped catapult the industry’s development — which would mean canceled projects and thousands of potential layoffs. 

Fortunately, President Joe Biden recently stepped in to end the immediate danger, ensuring that no tariffs would be applied, including retroactively, for the next two years. That doesn’t end the Commerce Department’s review of the case, but it does allow the industry to resume investing and creating jobs.

The trade issue in question, in this case, is a complicated matter of law, and the goal of helping U.S. manufacturers to thrive is a worthy one. But whatever the ultimate outcome of this specific matter, we need comprehensive policies that accelerate the clean energy transition.

The president’s action was a pragmatic and necessary step to end the short-term uncertainty in the marketplace. We should now move aggressively to boost both manufacturers and installers.

The most important priority is passing the clean energy tax credits now being considered in the Senate. Nothing will give U.S. manufacturers, installers and workers a bigger boost. It would transform how we produce electricity in the United States, rapidly moving us to cheaper, cleaner sources of power.

If the president and Congress can get this done, the growth of solar, wind and other forms of clean energy would be supercharged. That’s necessary because, for all our success in making clean energy a cheap and practical source of power, we are still not yet on pace to meet our climate goals. Success would mean fewer asthma attacks, relief for communities struggling with pollution and millions of tons of climate pollution avoided.

That same bill includes a new investment tax credit for utility-scale electricity storage and for new transmission lines. Both will reduce outages and help move power to where it’s needed, when it’s needed. It will make our power system more resilient against storms and other natural disasters that are becoming more intense due to climate change.

In all, the legislation being considered would be the biggest and boldest climate action ever taken by the US Congress.

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We should also use the reprieve created by the president to align our national goals on climate, clean energy and competitiveness. As the country faces high energy prices, overseas economic competition and a climate crisis, we need policies that solve for all three. We should take actions that create demand for American products, boost opportunities for American workers and give installers the products …….


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