SEMI Hosts PV Lobby Day


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PV Group and SEMI Host PV Lobby Day

Energy issues are getting a lot of attention on Capitol Hill. SEMI and the PV Group recently organized a PV Lobby Day to talk with legislators about ways to promote the development of solar energy in the United States. Participants met for a day in Washington for a dozen meetings with key policymakers. Participating companies included Advanced Energy Investing, Applied Materials, Brewer Science, KLA Tencor and Matheson Tri-Gas.

What’s Happening on the Hill?

The Congress took major action on energy policy earlier this year with the inclusion of several provisions in the stimulus bill that support alternative energies. A flurry of activity in recent months occurred as these provisions (like the new manufacturing tax credit for advanced energy equipment and the grant in lieu of the investment tax credit) were put into place. This is a good start, but more needs to be done.

The House passed major climate change/energy legislation in June with the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill. This bill includes a controversial “cap-and-trade” system to limit greenhouse gas emissions through an auction and trading system of emissions allowances. The bill also includes a wide range of policies intended to promote renewable energy, such as a renewable electricity standard (RES) and the creation of a Clean Energy Deployment Administration (Green Bank).

The action is now in the Senate. Over the summer, the Senate Energy Committee approved an energy policy bill that includes an RES and Green Bank. In separate action, Senate Environment Committee chairwoman Boxer (D-CA) introduced a climate change bill on September 30. Senate leadership intends to finalize the climate change bill following consideration within the relevant committees and then merge it with the energy policy bill before bringing a final legislative package to the Senate floor for a vote. Given the prominence of health care reform and other pressing legislative issues, some are beginning to question whether the climate change/energy package can be finalized this year or if it will slip into next year.

Key Provisions

  • Renewable electricity standard: There is a strong movement in the United States to adopt renewable electricity standards. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia already have taken this approach. Many of these efforts are more vigorous than what it being proposed at the federal level. Adopting a federal RES is critical to increase adoption of renewable energies such as solar.

    The House bill provides for an RES of 20 percent by 2020. The Senate bill provides for an RES of 15 percent by 2021. Both bills would allow energy efficiency improvements to count towards about a quarter of the RES requirement. If one adds up the existing RES goals of the states and then takes out the 25 percent carve-out for energy efficiency improvements, the levels in the Senate bill would only meet the cumulative level of what states already are seeking to achieve.

    SEMI and the PV Group urge the Congress to approve final legislation with the higher numbers of the House bill – an RES of 20 percent by 2020. We support current efforts in the Senate to boost the numbers in their bill. Ideally the RES structure should be changed so that energy efficiency improvements are treated separately instead of as an RES carve-out.

  • Green Bank/Clean Energy Deployment Administration: Both the House and Senate bills include a range of provisions to create a Green Bank. This would be formally called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA). It is critical that the Congress finalize the creation of a Green Bank to address many of the funding challenges that are stumbling blocks to investors seeking to start solar projects in the United States.

    The House bill would create the Green Bank as an independent corporation of the United States. This is similar to the Ex-Im Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and other agencies. A Board of Directors with high-level government officials would oversee the Bank. The Senate bill would create the Green Bank as a corporation within DOE. SEMI and the PV Group urge Congress to adopt the independent corporation structure proposed in the House bill to allow the Bank to operate with greater flexibility while ensuring oversight.

    The House bill provides the Green Bank with an initial capitalization of $7.5 billion and the Senate bill provides $10 billion. SEMI and the PV Group urge Congress to adopt the higher funding level proposed in the Senate bill.

SEMI PV Lobby Day Meetings

To promote these messages, the SEMI PV Lobby Day featured meetings with a dozen key policymakers on Capitol Hill and at the Energy Department.

Our keynote speaker was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Rep. Giffords is a leading champion of solar energy and she has sponsored several pro-solar bills. Giffords discussed the political dynamics of trying to increase support for alternative energies. She urged SEMI and PV Group members to remain actively engaged in Washington so that policymakers understand that solar energy is a serious issue and that more must be done to promote greater development of this type of energy in the United States.

Lobby day participants also met with aides to three prominent members of the Senate Energy Committee— the Chief of Staff to committee chairman Bingaman (D-NM) as well as the offices of Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Udall (D-CO). Meetings in the House of Representatives were selected based on constituent relationships and committee assignments. The SEMI team met with the following offices:

  • Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY)
  • Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
  • Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
  • Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)
  • Rep. John Tanner (D-TN)
  • Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)

To wrap up the day, the SEMI team met with representatives of the Solar Energy Technologies Program at the Energy Department. We provided an update on the results of our congressional meetings and discussed ways to continue to collaborate together. The Energy Department is preparing several informational reports of interest to those involved in solar energy and readers are encouraged to regularly visit the website for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (http://www.eere.energy.gov/) for more information.

Looking Ahead

The coming months will see a lot of activity in Congress and in the Obama Administration regarding energy policy. Senate negotiations on a climate change bill will heat up this fall and congressional leaders will decide what should be included in a final climate change/energy bill and when to take action. It is critical that SEMI and the PV Group are part of the mix. We continue regular meetings with policymakers and encourage companies to join our effort. For more information and to get involved, please contact Maggie Hershey at mhershey@semi.org.

October 5, 2009