SEIA moderated a panel of three solar policy professionals called “Why What Happens in Washington DC Affects Your Bottom Line.” SolarWorld’s exhibit booth loomed large over the exhibit hall at SPI, so policy was likely at the forefront of many minds. Here are three things I learned.
1. The solar industry must stay vigilant in the trade case fight.
Steven Koerner, director of government affairs at Recurrent Energy, said the best way for the solar industry to fight tariffs is to show up—and show up, it has. Koerner went to the ITC on the day solar workers converged in the capital to fight the case, and said seeing more than 300 solar workers in their yellow T-shirts absolutely made an impression on the commission. He said the ITC had to open not one but two overflow rooms to accommodate the crowd. What’s typically a sober, suit-and-tie event was brought to a human level with solar workers in hardhats and shirts asking the commission to save solar jobs.
Koerner asked the attendees to keep up the pressure on their legislators by calling and meeting with them to explain the impacts an injury finding could have on the industry.
Moderator Christopher Mansour, SEIA’s vice president of federal affairs, said SEIA is encouraging the administration to look at ways to resolve this trade case in conjunction with other anti-dumping cases in a global way.
2. Tax reform or rate reduction may be less of a threat to solar.
John Marciano, chair of SEIA’s tax and accounting committee, said the chance of the Solar Investment Tax Credit going away now is very low, but the chance of it going away at the end of the phase-down period is a little higher. Ashley Patterson, vice president of government relations & public policy at Ameresco, was a bit more wary. She said the industry can’t rule out a Republican last-ditch effort to deliver tax cuts or let certain solar deductions expire.
Though the two ITCs took center stage at this session, Patterson updated the group with other important energy policy happenings. She expressed relief that the Department of Energy’s grid reliability report didn’t undermine renewables, but instead found what the solar industry knew to be true: Natural gas, not renewables, are the cause of coal plant retirements.
Another interesting update was the Department of Defense’s evolving understanding of how solar can help the military. While in the past it looked at solar for mostly economic reasons, Patterson said it’s now looking to renewables to increase mission capability and assurance. Energy security and decreasing dependence on diesel generators is of utmost importance.