SEIA and US solar leaders call on Congress to ‘support legislation’ to ease solar permitting and transmission

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SunPower modules on a JCPenney store in the US
The SEIA letter calls on Congress to implement “efficient and modernised transmission infrastructure.” Image: SunPower and SEIA

The US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has sent a letter, containing close to 200 signatures from solar and storage companies in the US, to the US Congress, calling on the body to accelerate legislative reform for solar projects in the US.

The letter, dated 11 April and sent yesterday, calls on the government to streamline four aspects of solar legislation: permitting, siting, transmission and access to public lands. The signatories argue that the current solar and storage permitting processes are “overly complex and time-consuming”, and in need of standardisation, and that legislators should designate priority sites for use by solar and storage developers, to eliminate “land use conflicts and restrictions.”

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The groups also call on Congress to implement “efficient and modernised transmission infrastructure”, and “support legislation that simplifies the process for leasing public lands” for use by the solar and storage industries, with the availability of grid connections and land for projects among the chief concerns of the US solar sector.

The SEIA, meanwhile, called for bodies across the US government to collaborate more closely, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Department of Energy (DOE), all of which have jurisdiction over different parts of the siting process.

“Lawmakers in both parties understand the importance of getting new energy infrastructure built quickly and efficiently,” said SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. “Now is the time for policy action to strengthen America’s energy industry and support local economies with jobs and private investments.”

Reform of ‘paramount importance’

The SEIA argues that reforming these components of US law is of “paramount importance” if the US is to meet its climate change goals. The trade body has announced ambitious forecasts for the US solar sector, including a near-quadrupling of installed capacity from 177GW at the end of 2023 to 672GW at the end of 2034. The association also expects solar to make up the largest share of electricity-generating capacity in the US by 2040.

The SEIA letter is signed by a number of industry-leading firms, including tracker supplier Nextracker, German solar manufacturer QCells and the US arms of EDP Renewables and Trina Solar.

The presence of international companies is of particular significance, with the influential Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) encouraging solar companies headquartered overseas to relocate parts of their supply chain to the US. Earlier this year, Swiss manufacturer Meyer Burger closed a module assembly plant in Germany, and announced plans to replace it with a new facility in the US state of Arizona, to capitalise on IRA incentives for US-based solar manufacturing.

“Our current laws are not set to enable our nation to build generation and transmission at the scale needed to support our economic growth,” said Virinder Singh, vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs for EDF Renewables.

“For example, the Western US needs more solar on federal lands to meet its reliability needs. We can do it, and while heeding environmental and community priorities. But we need federal leadership to match the moment.”

The call follows similar demands made by the Council on Environmental Quality, which asked for the permitting process to be streamlined last July, and an investment made by the US DOE to improve siting and permitting, which was completed this March.

8 October 2024
San Francisco Bay Area, USA
PV Tech has been running an annual PV CellTech Conference since 2016. PV CellTech USA, on 8-9 October 2024 is our second PV CellTech conference dedicated to the U.S. manufacturing sector. The event in 2023 was a sell out success and 2024 will once again gather the key stakeholders from PV manufacturing, equipment/materials, policy-making and strategy, capital equipment investment and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out PV manufacturing in the U.S. out to 2030 and beyond.

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