What should the solar industry expect from the administration of President-elect Joe Biden? A helping hand is almost certain. A clean energy revolution is not, however; there is a chance for significant progress.
“500 million solar panels”
In a report released in July 2020, titled, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations, Democrats call for the installation of "500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems.” This is a commendable leap, given that in 2019, there were just over 2 million solar systems installed across the country.
Who will install all of these solar panels? In all likelihood, most solar projects will continue to be installed by the private sector, though a Biden administration will do what it can to ramp up solar development to historic levels, and it may be able to lean on federal construction projects to help reach that number.
Where will these systems will be built? That remains unclear, though new and existing local legislation is sure to play a driving role. Washington, D.C. will continue to be a hub for solar companies, due to the ambitious target in the District’s Solar for All program – to use 100% renewable energy by 2032 – and its political support from locals. The 20 states that allow for the development of community solar, mostly in the west and the northeast, also stand a good chance to benefit from the early stages of this solar leap that Biden is calling for.
How will this be done? The same Biden-Sanders report calls for federal measures to cut red tape slowing the solar industry, making permitting for rooftop solar and other retrofits much faster and easier.
Extending tax credits
Leveraging the tax code to promote renewable energy is another cornerstone of the Biden administration’s climate plan. This is nothing new, however. Since it was implemented in 2006, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), has helped the solar industry grow by a staggering 10,000%. Residential and commercial building owners benefit from this policy by getting a 26% tax credit for installing solar on their building.
Currently, the solar ITC is set to rapidly decrease in 2022 from the 26% tax credit available now to just 10% for commercial solar projects and a whopping 0% for residential systems. President-elect Biden plans to permanently extend the solar ITC, locking it in at a favorable rate to both commercial and residential building owners.
Along with making the solar ITC a permanent fixture, President-elect Biden plans to create several new incentives to retrofit the nation’s industrial zones and to encourage low-carbon manufacturing. Expect to see many “Made in America” stickers boasting solar panels in the background.
Investing in battery life
You can also expect the Biden administration to put a new focus on investing in batteries and energy storage. The problem of storing solar energy in the grid is one of the most vital questions concerning the industry’s longevity and success. However, that problem may be solved in the coming years.
The Biden-Sanders recommendation list has strong language on the issue of clean energy storage, encouraging the new Democratic administration to “supercharge investment in innovation and deployment of American-made battery technology and clean energy transmission lines.”
These few policy shifts are good, sure, but they are not enough. The Biden administration should study a report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), detailing a 100-day plan that President-elect Biden could implement (involving several executive actions) to reverse the setbacks of the past four years and to set the goalposts even further.
Such a comprehensive and cohesive policy shift in the U.S. would be a boon for solar around the world, but, more importantly, would help humanity maintain a liveable climate for ourselves and for our children. Sustained public action and attention on climate issues, including for a renewed focus on solar power, will help ensure that these policies are front and center of a new administration and the new Congress.
SaveSolar is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that specializes in developing community solar assets. We work with building owners to finance and build solar assets, to compensate owners with long-term revenue and to generate solar energy back into the utility. This energy is then provided at a discount to residential, low-income and community subscribers. Our mission is to help our district reach its renewable energy goals and to lower the cost of electricity.
The SaveSolar executive leadership team has over 60 years of combined experience in renewable energy markets in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. We have diversified experience across construction, finance, project management, technology and sustainability. Our expertise spans numerous countries that have previously established renewable energy programs.
If you would like to contact SaveSolar to discuss a project, please visit https://www.savesolar.us/rooftop-solar-lease/ to book an appointment, or call us at (202) 846-6928 to speak to one of our Community Project Specialists.