SEIA President Rhone Resch Challenges Solar Industry to Unite, Fight for "Solar Bill of Rights"
October 27, 2009 (Solar Energy Industry Association)SUMMARY
The Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., keynote address at Solar Power International 2009 was the biggest moment of the week. It is deeply gratifying that one of the great leaders and environmentalists of our time
GETS New Energy so clearly.
Despite his 25 years as a (self-described) agitator and environmentalist and (by his count) 400 lawsuits against polluters, Kennedy told the audience of solar energy builders, movers and shakers, he finds his advocacy for New Energy “by far the most subversive thing I’ve ever done.”
Kennedy has joined with New Energy’s other great champions (Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Boone Pickens, the leaders of Congress, the environmental movement and top people in the Obama administration) in planning the New Energy economy. It is subversive, he says, because it will democratize energy and shift 3.5 trillion dollars of U.S. energy resources away from Old Energy’s polluters, poisoners and spewers.
The solution to environmental problems, Kennedy concluded, is free market capitalism. Take the subsidies for Old Energy away and let the free market work in “the interests of all humanity…[to] restore American values and make the country live up to its values…There is a bright future ahead,” Kennedy said, “and it comes from the sun.”
It was an inspiring talk and served as a perfect explanation for why the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch declared the Solar Energy Industry’s Bill of Rights
in his keynote address the previous morning.
After recounting the policy victories solar energy had won from the federal government in the last year, Resch said the industry was at a crossroads and it was time to declare itself.click to enlarge
”We declare these rights,” Resch told the solar industry professionals he leads and serves so effectively, “not on behalf of our companies, but on behalf of our customers and our country. We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal terms and no more than the liberty for consumers to choose the energy source they think best…”
He went on to repeat his deeper message: The fight for solar and the other New Energies to take their rightful place in the nation’s energy mix is just beginning.
“These rights,” Resch said, “like those on which this country was founded, are a simple matter of common-sense. In fact, you might even call them ‘self-evident.’ But that doesn’t mean they’re self-evident in the halls of power, especially when our opponents are pumping as much haze into the energy debate as they are into the environment.
"They are spending millions of dollars on lobbying, PR and advertising, and much of it is financing a deliberate effort to discredit our industry. In advertising alone, the coal industry will spend $50 million and the oil and gas industries will spend over $100 million on advertising this year…Collectively, this effort has put a target on solar’s back… And guess how much the solar industry is spending on advertising to clear the air: Zero…"click thru for the complete Bill of Rights textCOMMENTARY
As if picking up on Resch's call for pushback against the enemies of New Energy, Mr. Kennedy - in making his point about New Energy's economic value - condemned the “false choice” offered by ExxonMobil, Massey Coal and others, a choice between New Energy and economic prosperity. “Good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy,” he said, and then went on to recount the words of the UK’s Lord David Putnam
Lord Putnam, Kennedy said, argued that the climate change deniers and fossil fools who say the New Energy economy cannot be risked are like those who tried to keep Britain from outlawing the slave trade in the early 1800s. They said it would bring economic ruin. But Parliament chose to do the moral thing. Its courage in banning slavery paid off in a wave of innovation and the British economy boomed.
The New Energy economy, Kennedy asserted, will end the overt and implicit subsidy of spewers, keep the money lost to imported oil in the domestic economy and take energy generation out of the hands of companies who rape the land and ruin rural people to fund their Wall Street investments. He described the great wealth that has been reaped by other countries that have already shifted to New Energy like Iceland, Sweden, Brazil and Costa Rica and then pointed out that the U.S. has better New Energy resources than any of them.
To earn the same prosperity, he said, the U.S. needs high voltage New Energy transmission and a Smart Grid to manage it. It needs efficiency policies like utility decoupling, and it needs more rooftop solar systems like the three Kennedy has on his own home and residential geothermal systems like his own.
He also urged a shift to electric transportation, the end of fossil fuels and a New Energy economy that will turn “every home into a power plant” and “every American into an energy entrepreneur” instead of a closed energy market that subsidizes “fuels from hell.” click thru to see the complete Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., address
If their opponents say they are too small, Kennedy reminded his audience, solar industry pioneers must remember there was a time when the incipient Internet was disdained as too small by IBM and the big telecommunications companies fought the policies that opened up the cell phone industry for fear there was no profit in it.
If their opponents say New Energy can’t get built in time to serve rising demand, he reminded them, there was a time when political opponents and so-called experts told then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt the country could not ramp up its military production in time to win World War II. But FDR demanded the auto industry retool, and it was in production 6 weeks later. FDR set inconceivably demanding goals and within a year those “impossible” targets were being exceeded by can-do Americans with the know-how to meet challenges they understand must be met.
This time, Kennedy said, the product will not be the stranded assets of a wartime economy but a New Energy infrastructure. By creating millions of jobs, eliminating oil imports and making energy a domestic product, the results will be in essence “the biggest permanent tax break in the history of the world” as well as a triumph in the economic war the nation is now in against China for control of New Energy and the 21st century economy.
It was as if Kennedy was thinking of the point Rhone Resch had made early in his Bill of Rights presentation about how big and important solar has become in the nation’s energy mix. It is, Resch said, 13% of all new utility announcements and filings this year.click to enlarge
Resch then listed many of the 19 policy victories, expected to generate 100,000 solar industry jobs, that solar advocates won for the industry in the last year, including:
1-After an 18 month fight that went through 17 Congressional votes and 9 Senate filibusters, New Energy won when the investment tax credit was extended for 8 years, raised to 30% of the full cost of solar systems and allocated to utilities.
2-When the economic downturn made tax credits inadequate as incentives, New Energy advocates won a provision for turning the credits into a Treasury Grant.
3-New Energy won a better loan guarantee program.
4-New Energy won relief from the tax penalty for subsidized renewable energy financing, clearing the way for the Vice President Biden-supervised Recovery through Retrofit program.
5-New Energy won when the cap on the tax credit for solar water heating was removed.
6-New Energy won $5.5 billion in appropriations to construct, repair and retrofit federal buildings.
7-New Energy won when $16.8 billion was allocated to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
8-New Energy won $500 million in stimulus funding to train green collar workers.
9-New Energy won a 30% ITC for new solar manufacturing facilities. click to enlarge
Resch urged his people, though, not to be satisfied. What is needed from industry professionals, he said, is the same thing Kennedy said the next day is needed from the voting public – unified and committed action “to create a policy environment where solar thrives.”
“All we seek,” Resch said, introducing the solar Bill of Rights, “is the freedom to compete, and all consumers want is the freedom to choose their energy source. Instead, the full promise of solar power is being restrained by the tyranny of policies that protect our competitors, subsidize wealthy polluters and disadvantage green entrepreneurs…And Americans know better than anyone else in the world that there’s only one way to overcome tyranny—by declaring our rights and fighting for them with a united and determined voice.”
Only slightly less momentous than the U.S. law, the solar energy’s bill of rights has only slightly fewer (8) points: Americans have:click to enlarge
1-…The right to put solar on their homes or businesses (without obstructive zoning laws and rules).
2-…The right to connect their solar systems to the grid with uniform national standards.
3-…The right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates.
4-…The right to a fair competitive environment instead of getting less than $1 billion in federal subsidies while fossil fuels get $72 billion.
5-…The right to equal access to public lands (instead of almost no approved access while the oil and gas industry has access to 45 million acres).
6-…The right to interconnect with existing transmission and build new lines.
7-…The right to buy solar electricity from utilities (and to require their utilities to get electricity from solar energy).
8-…The right to expect the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry.click to enlarge
“…[L]et’s make today solar’s Fourth of July,” Resch said, “the day we declare our independence from policies that prevent greater use of solar energy which Americans so urgently need.”
Resch said the solar industry must change the fact that Old Energy outspends solar energy $150 million to zero on advocacy.
It must win a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) in the coming energy and climate bill that will require regulated utilities to obtain 25% of their power from New Energy sources by 2025. click to enlarge
It must win a national cap&trade program that effectively puts a price on emissions and sends 10% of the emissions allowances, representing tens of billions of dollars, to the states to fund New Energy and Energy Efficiency.
It must win support for high voltage New Energy transmission and expanded FERC authority to overcome regulatory bottlenecks with regional planning and innovative regional cost-and revenue sharing.
It must obtain an expanded federal Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) authority.click to enlarge
It must win a Clean Energy Deployment Administration (clean energy bank) to drive financing of New Energy projects.
To win these things, Resch concluded, and they are all too important to compromise away, solar professionals must (1) support SEIA and the SEIA political action committee, (2) engage with the political process and (3) educate the public to the value of solar energy and the need to policy action that will make the solar Bill of Rights a reality.
In the absence of action carried out with solar advocates’ passion and patriotism, it is possible the power of the Old Energies could doom the industry to “the tyranny of a century of policies that protects our competitors” OR the industry “can fight for a new century of policies that secure our rights.click to enlarge
”Fight, or surrender. Go big, or go home,” Resch said.
After the Kennedy presentation and a look at the solar Bill of Rights, it’s entirely likely 25,000 solar industry attendees will do both: Go home from the biggest and most successful Solar Power International ever and get ready for a serious fight to win New Energy.
Don’t bet against them.click to enlarge QUOTES
- Resch: “We stand at a crossroads — a decisive moment. The question is whether we’re going to appreciate the vital importance of the policy environment and get serious about shaping it. For our industry, everything hangs on that choice. Let me say it more directly. When it comes to engaging in the major policy battles ahead, we face a choice right here, right now. There are two alternatives—and two alone: Go big. Or go home…The possibilities of this moment are no surprise—not to us. The American people and our political leaders are appreciating more fully what you have long known: solar is here, solar is ready, and the future we have long worked to build is now…”click to enlarge
- Resch: “Regardless of who you ask solar has a bright, clean and exciting future…And when was the last time that anyone described the future of the coal industry as exciting? They might try to convince you that it’s “clean,” but it’s certainly not exciting…The solar industry differs from our competitors not in status but in substance. We are an industry in ascent; they are sectors in decline. Our source is clean and limitless; theirs are toxic and scarce…We as the solar industry represent the future of clean power, the new economy and a new era of American innovation. That is the possibility of this moment…” click to enlarge
- Resch: “Make no mistake: The challenges ahead of us are taller and tougher than any we have faced before. We cannot rely on the goodwill of policymakers to prevail. We must fight together, and we must fight to win…And make no mistake about this either: We know how to win. And our victories of the last year prove it…But our work is not finished, and we aspire to win far more than the policy battles of a single year. The fights ahead will surpass any we have seen so far—and so will the victories, if we work together…”