President Obama has launched a triple-pronged approach to boost the solar energy sector in the US.
The plans, which will not require the approval of Congress, are designed to enable job creation, improve federal procurement plans and create new finance options for investors.
“Over the past few years, the cost of solar panels have fallen by 60%; solar installations have increased by 500%. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar, and every panel is pounded into place by a worker whose job cannot be overseas,” Obama told an audience in Mountain View, California on Friday 9 May.
“So today, no matter where you live or where you do business, solar is getting cheaper and is getting easier to use than before. And with more businesses and rural cooperatives and homes choosing solar, prices keep coming down, manufacturers keep getting more innovative, and more jobs are created. Last year, jobs in the solar industry increased by 20%.
“But we’ve got more work to do. And I want to work with Congress to do it. Unfortunately, Congress has not always been as visionary on these issues as we would like. It can be a little frustrating. But in this Year of Action, wherever I can go ahead and create my own opportunities for new jobs, I'm going to take it."
Under the proposals announced on Friday, Federal agencies will be able to jointly procureme PV, allowing better economies of scale.
A White House statement also said that the Treasury Department and IRS would soon “clarify how certain investment rules relate to renewable energy installations”. Specifically, it said that new guidance would clarify how renewable energy investment would be treated under the rules for real estate investment trusts (REITs).
REITs have been used for solar already however there have been challenges as to whether to solar farms qualify for the scheme. According to Deloitte, the rules define property as “land or improvements thereon, such as buildings” or “other inherently permanent structures”. They specify that an “accessory to the operation of a business” should not qualify.
Opening the REIT market to solar without this ambiguity would open up a trusted and established form of investment. In 2013, US REITs had a market capitalisation of more than US$670 billion.
The President also announced an expansion of the Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network to ensure that another 50,000 people are qualified to work in the sector by 2020.
A series of energy efficiency measures were also revealed.
Video: The President's speech on energy and energy efficiency plans