US vice president Joe Biden took aim at “special interest groups” standing in the way of solar’s growth in an impassioned speech at Solar Power International today.
In front of a packed hall in Anaheim, California, Biden singled out the attempts of the fossil fuel industry to “stifle” growth in the US solar market even as consumers increasingly embrace it as a low-cost energy option.
Biden highlighted how since the Obama administration took office, solar deployment in the US had grown 20-fold and continued to increase “exponentially”.
But he said solar’s progress had increasingly made it a target for those with interests in checking that growth.
“Some of the most deep-pocketed special interests that have lobbied for years for fossil fuels are now saying let’s stop it, lets’ take away consumer choice, let’s stifle the market. Isn’t it amazing?” he said.
Biden singled out utilities and fossil fuel stalwarts the Koch brothers for their role in seeking to create barriers to further growth in solar.
“They’ve successfully argued for limits on the amount of net metered systems, like what they’ve successfully done in Wisconsin,” he said. “It’s a special interest pushing back on a fundamental change at every level.”
Biden highlighted the anachronism of fossil fuels continuing to receive subsidies, arguing that ongoing support for a well-established industry no longer made sense.
“For I don’t know how many years now, we’ve provided over US$5 billion dollars in tax credits for the oil industry. Now at one point arguably that made a lot of sense. For every ten wells you dug, you came up dry on six, seven, so we had to encourage people to go out and sink those wells. Anyone have any problem getting oil out of the ground today? Are we short on that now? Folks, they don’t need that tax credit. They don’t have to take the risk they used to,” Biden said.
Biden confirmed an announcement press-released earlier in the day by the White House of US$120 million of funding for solar. This will be broken down into a US$102 million competitive grant pot from the Department of Energy for projects aimed at making PV more affordable. A further US$20 million will be available for projects to advance research in PV.
He said of the efforts to mainstream solar as an energy source: “It’s actually at our fingertips; it’s within our reach, you can almost taste it. You can feel it. But we also know there are some real challenges. We know the private sector can only thrive where they have certainty in the investor environment, where there is free and fair competition, where intellectual property is protected, where trade rules are followed.”