Biden Administration Issues Brief on Solar Power Future

The Department of Energy has released a new issue report that details the future of American solar power, good job opportunities and affordable energy. President Biden’s proposed investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better Agenda will invest in the infrastructure, manufacturing, innovation and incentives for solar energy to grow good-paying union jobs at home, make solar energy affordable for all American families and accelerate the deployment of net-zero energy across the country.

The DOE issue brief – Investing in the Clean Energy Future: Solar Energy Research, Deployment, and Workforce Priorities – details the growth opportunities that exist in the solar energy industry for workers and families, and how investments like those proposed by President Biden can supercharge the benefits of these opportunities.

The issue brief explains in detail how investments in solar deployment support the U.S. clean-energy revolution. Solar will play an important role in reaching President Biden’s 2035 clean electricity goal – alongside other sources of carbon-pollution free electricity, including onshore and offshore wind, existing power plants retrofitted with carbon capture or green hydrogen, geothermal, hydropower, and nuclear. Solar is already the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the nation – growing nearly 4,000% in just over a decade, from about 2.5 GW DC of solar capacity in 2010 to over 100 GW DC today.

The pipeline of solar projects is on track to reach record levels in 2021. Solar deployment must accelerate three to four times faster than current rates by 2030 to reach a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035. Large-scale decarbonization of electricity could increase solar’s share of generation from 3% today to over 40% by 2030.

This potential for solar power requires historic investments to accelerate the deployment of solar systems in residential, commercial, and utility-scale areas. This includes those who are disadvantaged or have low incomes. This will be achieved by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement and the Build Back better Agenda, which propose clean energy investments to create jobs and economic opportunity. This includes the extension by $300 billion of tax cuts for clean energy, including solar. Funding for new transmission and storage infrastructure will be cheaper.

President Biden also proposed a Clean Energy Accelerator, which will leverage private capital to finance community solar projects, especially in low-income or disadvantaged communities. These investments, along with the proposed Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard, can help achieve the President’s goal of 100% carbon pollution-fee power by 2035.

Solar innovation can lower the costs of consumers and communities. Thanks in part to DOE investments, solar costs have declined 70% to 80% since 2010 – lowering the price of a typical 6 kW residential system by almost $30,000. Although solar photovoltaic is already the most cost-effective option for electricity in many states, it is crucial to bring this low-cost and zero-carbon electricity to more areas of the country to help American families save money.

The Biden Administration is committed investing in solar innovation and lowering energy costs for families and communities across the nation. The DOE Solar Energy Technology Office has set a new 2030 goal, which is to lower the cost of solar (PV), from $0.02 to $0.05 per kWh with no subsidies, for residential and utility scales. This would save a typical home nearly $14,000

DOE is also celebrating the Summer of Solar 2021 to promote a new, free, web-based tool – the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) – that helps local governments speed up the review and approval of permits for residential solar and solar plus storage systems. It will encourage businesses to work in the jurisdictions that use it. Residential installations in San Jose, Calif. increased 600% after the implementation of a similar tool to speed-track permits.

President Biden’s Build back Better investments can help DOE achieve these cost reductions. Investments in clean energy R&D, supply chains of critical materials, and tax cuts for new and retooled factories for advanced energy manufacturing will help lower costs across the solar lifecycle. The extension of tax cuts to both residential and utility renewable energy projects can lower the initial costs of solar and accelerate deployment, so everyone can benefit from the economies. Lower solar costs can help reduce utility energy costs for ratepayers. It also makes solar more affordable for many families and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG), emissions.

In 2020, there were over 300,000 people employed in the American solar industry – 230,000 of whom worked in solar for a majority of their time. Employment in the solar industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors over the past decade – increasing by 150% between 2010 and 2020. These workers are employed by over 10,000 solar businesses across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – many of them small businesses. While clean energy jobs broadly were hit by the economic shutdown due to the COVID19 pandemic, they have bounced back substantially – adding back over 300,000 jobs this past year – and recovering at a rate faster than most other sectors of the economy.

Millions of new jobs in clean energy technologies can be created if we move towards a decarbonized sector by 2035. There could be between 500,000 and 1,500,000 people working in the solar sector by 2035. To meet the demand and supply, investments are necessary to expand the talent pool by increasing access to training opportunities across all workforce development stakeholders such as labor unions. This could include apprenticeship-based careers that include solar work as a part of a broad career path. The President’s agenda will ensure that these investments produce good-quality jobs with strong labor standards, including prevailing wages and the free and fair choice to join a union and bargain collectively.

As previously announced, DOE is pursuing new policy to ensure that all innovations that are developed with taxpayer dollars through DOE’s Science and Energy Programs require awardees to substantially manufacture those products in the United States, creating good-paying domestic jobs. This change will cover more than $8 billion in clean energy and climate innovation funding requested in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, as well as future fiscal year spending. These actions will be carried out by DOE via a Bayh-Dole Act Determination of Exceptional Circumstances.

You can read the entire issue here.