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May 5, 2015 | Dear Policymakers, Solar is Here to Stay

The solar industry, more than any other, is driven by policy decisions made at national and state levels. Sometimes the decisions appear arbitrary to outsiders, but all policy decisions are calculated to bring the most credit to those creating them.

Here are the three most important ideas we have to get across to legislators across the country and in Washington, D.C.:

  1. Solar is no longer a niche energy supply. Germany, whose insolation levels are half what they are in most states, generated more than 50% of its energy from solar on June 9, 2014. Prices of solar installations have come down significantly, and new financing options (including solar leasing) have put solar energy within reach of middle class and small businesses. It could easily reconfigure the U.S. energy mix in the not-too-distant future. When companies like Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s Department Stores, IKEA, Macy’s, McGraw-Hill, Campbell’s Soup, and Crayola are investing their time and treasure into solar, you know it’s gone mainstream.
  1. Solars subsidy levels are a tiny fraction of the subsidies given to oil, gas and coal. According to DBL Investors, the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear industries have received approximately $630 billion in U.S. government subsidies, while wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable sectors have received a total of roughly $50 billion in government investments in cumulative dollars over the lifetimes of their respective subsidies. Of that, solar is only a tiny component. If the United States wants to compete with the rest of the world for solar technological leadership, the government must continue to encourage R&D and homeowner installations with a similar investment at the levels fossil fuels receive.
  1. Solar energy creates jobs. This information is often a revelation for most policymakers. When you tell them that there are 142,000 solar workers in the United States compared to 123,227 coal-mining jobs (according to Business Insider), their jaws will drop. At a recent Mid-Atlantic solar conference, one attendee told a story where a legislator said: “I don’t believe humans play any role in climate change, but I do believe in the number of solar jobs that have been created in my district.” That’s a key message to hammer home and will win adherents even in the reddest of states.

There are intense battles going on across the country as utilities and legislators try to strangle the solar industry in its infancy by passing bad energy-policy prescriptions. It’s up to companies active in the solar industry — in conjunction with grassroots solar supporters across the country — to ensure these efforts fail.

This is a fight we must win, and we will. The facts are clearly on our side, and policymakers must understand that solar is here to stay.