Former Rhode Island Congresswoman Claudine Schneider says that when it comes to the potential of solar energy, the U.S. government has failed to take the lead. That’s why she’s charging ahead as the president of a newly launched organization called The Solar Alliance, whose aim is to support and influence solar policies and programs on the state level.
As we’ve pointed out, the state level is proving to be imperative when it comes to getting clean energy technologies to the market. More than 20 solar companies, including SunPower (SPWR), Conergy (CEYHF.PK), and First Solar (FSLR), have joined the alliance.
Q: Why is the Solar Alliance necessary?
A: The federal government has failed to provide serious leadership in addressing the enormous potential of solar energy in the United States. The true leadership in furthering this energy option, then, must come from the states. The governors understand the need to reduce volatility of energy prices for their citizens on fixed incomes as well as for industries in their states. Obvious examples are Gov. Schwarzenegger, [Gov. John] Corzine of New Jersey, [Gov. Martin] O’Malley of Maryland, [Gov. Edward] Rendell of Pennsylvania, [Gov. Bill] Ritter of Colorado, and [Gov. Charlie] Crist of Florida.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish?
A: The challenge of opening solar markets state-by-state is daunting indeed. That is not our intention. We will target states where there is political will and a substantial electricity market opportunity. It is our expectation that citizens of Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina and other states experience the value of solar energy. The U.S. Congress will eventually catch on and pass federal policies.
Q: Compared to the rest of the world, how does U.S. solar policy add up?
A: The U.S. lags behind Germany, Japan, Spain and soon, other nations. We have a Federal Investment Tax Credit that is due to expire and so the Congress is not sending a very positive signal to the solar industries. The significant solar policies are being developed in the individual states, on a piecemeal basis.
Q: Many of the companies involved in this alliance are competitors. What’s in this for them?
A: They understand the value of working together with one speaking voice. When such a group of obvious competitors can unify for a common cause, it sends an important signal to policy makers.
Q: Some say there’s too much money being invested in solar right now. How will policy help?
A: Policy helps to define markets. Without net-metering and interconnection policies, solar customers cannot interface with the grid. There is a role for legislators and regulators to assure equitable treatment for customers and reasonable returns for utilities. Without incentives, ‘business as usual’ is all too easy.