SPI 2014: SEIA launches campaign to save ITC at show opener

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Solar Power International 2014 got off to a bang last night with the launch of a campaign to save the Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

The ITC has been the critical driver of today’s current market boom in the US, but is due to come to and end in 2016.

Launching SPI 2014 in Las Vegas on Monday night, Rhone Resch, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said the instrument was “critically important to America’s future”, and rallied gathered attendees to a national campaign to save it.

Although the mood in the Nevada entertainment capital was buoyant as the show kicked off, with the US achieving record levels of solar deployment and up to 20,000 people expected to attend the event this week, the cessation of the ITC in two years is casting a long shadow.

Resch highlighted how solar investment in the US has exploded since the ITC was introduced.

“We’ve gone from being an US$800 million industry in 2006 to a US$15 billion industry today,” Resch continued. “The price to install a solar rooftop system has been cut in half, while utility systems have dropped by 70%. It’s taken the US solar industry 40 years to install the first 20GW of solar. Now, we’re going to install the next 20 GW in the next two years.

“And finally, during every single week of this year we’re going to install more capacity than what we did during the entire year in 2006. Tell me that’s not worth fighting for,” Resch said.

The nub of the SEIA’s campaign will be to highlight “tax fairness”. Resch pointed to the fact that oil and gas has received on average US$4.8 billion a year in subsidy since the US started incentivising energy development, compared to US$370 million for all renewables.

“How is this fair? How is this a leveling playing field? How does this kind of policy support an 'all-of-the-above' energy policy? Simply put, it doesn’t.”

He also highlighted what had happened to the US wind industry last year when the ending of the Production Tax Credit resulted in the loss of 30,000 jobs.

“Don’t kid yourselves. It can happen to solar, too. This isn’t the time to roll the dice on your future.”

The campaign will begin in earnest next year, when a new Congress is sworn in.

Setting out details of the campaign, Resch said it would target both the House and the Senate, including key members of the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Energy Committee, House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The SEIA will also run targeted campaigns in key states across the US. “We will work with our chapters and individual companies across the country to increase the awareness and participation of the public to support the ITC,” Resch said.

He added that the campaign would also seek to bridge the political divide by engaging new audiences, from Tea Party members through to Libertarians.

“Are we going to win all of these people all over? Of course not. But we can and we will create new champions and mitigate some of our entrenched opposition, by better educating these groups and their leaders about the real value of solar and the importance of ‘tax fairness’,” Resch said.

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