SEMI Pushes for Solar Energy Provisions in Economic Stimulus Package


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SEMI Pushes for Solar Energy Provisions in Economic Stimulus Package

The 111th Congress is getting underway and we are two weeks away from the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. There are many pressing concerns as 2009 starts, but clearly the economy is the top priority on the minds of most everyone from Members of Congress to rank-and-file employees. We are facing economic challenges that we have not seen in decades. Given this, Congress is working to enact an economic stimulus package as soon as possible, with a target deadline of February 13.

During 2008, SEMI successfully lobbied Members of Congress to extend the solar energy investment tax credit (ITC)— the main policy issue for the solar energy industry. As other countries offered attractive incentives for solar energy, U.S.-based companies were concerned that the solar energy ITC would expire at the end of 2008 and cause the United States to lose further ground on being a solar energy leader. However, just when it appeared as though the solar energy ITC would be left to expire, Congress passed the Financial Rescue Package on October 3. This package included an extension of the solar energy ITC. This was a big win for the solar energy industry. But, the ramifications of the financial market crisis and the downturn in the economy have made it hard to invest in solar energy.

As a result, after the passage of the solar energy ITC, SEMI immediately began working to set the stage for energy provisions that may be included in the economic stimulus package. During numerous meetings with Members of Congress, SEMI urged that Congress include provisions that would help grow the solar energy market in the United States. Specifically, SEMI asked Congress to provide for short-term refundability of the solar energy ITC and to double the funding for the Solar America Initiative (SAI) to $300 million. With a refundable ITC, companies that are not currently profitable would still be eligible to benefit from the ITC. SEMI believes that making the ITC refundable will provide a great benefit to our solar energy member companies. The SAI is the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal to achieve grid parity with solar technologies by 2015 through funding of competitively awarded partnerships with private companies and universities. To learn more about the SAI, please read SEMI’s interview with John Lushetsky, manager of the Solar Energy Technology Program at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although it will be a few years before solar energy reaches grid parity, SEMI is working hard to make sure that it happens as soon as possible. SEMI highly encourages its members to get involved in public policy. If you are interested and would like to help with the solar energy public policy efforts at SEMI, please contact Ken Schramko at kschramko@semi.org.