Looking back on 2015, we saw the U.S. solar industry take the lead in renewable energy. The solar industry supplied more new electric generating capacity than any other energy technology through the first half of the year, and had the largest Q2 in history, with 1,393 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity. The industry now employs around 175,000 people in the U.S. alone, up 20% from 2013.
The Impact of the Solar ITC and COP21
December brought promising news for the solar industry. The Solar Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”), a 30% federal tax credit on solar systems (residential and commercial properties), was set to expire in 2016. There were uncertainties about the future of solar if the tax credit was not extended. Before breaking for the holidays, Congress passed a bill to include a 5-year solar ITC extension. Just days before, world leaders met in Paris to discuss climate change on a global scale, agreeing on a plan to help combat global warming. Around the same time as COP21 in Paris, the solar industry launched the “Global Solar Council”, comprised of 25 national and regional solar associations worldwide to help communicate and coordinate at a global level.
What Does This Mean for the Solar Industry?
Solar energy can continue to break records and lead the way to a clean future. With the Paris Agreement and the ITC extension, the solar industry has the opportunity to take the reins on renewables through 2016.
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released a statement following the ITC extension:
“This historic vote brings the solar industry to the forefront of the conversation about American energy. The ITC extension makes America and its solar industry the world’s preeminent producer of clean and affordable energy.”
He went on to forecast that following the ITC extension:
- Solar energy will add 220,000 new jobs by 2020
- The solar industry can now employ 50,000 veterans as pledged
- Solar energy will cut emissions by 100 million metric tons
- More than $133 billion in new, private sector investments in the U.S. economy by 2020
- Solar power in the U.S. will more than triple by 2020, hitting 100 gigawatts (enough to power 20 million homes)
Working Together to Fight Emissions
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan aims to cut emissions from the U.S. power sector by more than 30% by 2030. The power sector currently makes up a third of U.S. emissions. This plan will also save over $50 billion in climate and health-related costs, making it the most aggressive step the U.S. has ever taken to fight climate change.
Individually, none of these plans will solve global warming, but together they pave the way for a cleaner future. Scientists analyzing the Paris Agreement predict it will only cut global greenhouse gas emissions by half of what is necessary to avoid a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in atmospheric temperature. Two degrees may not sound like much, but scientific studies have shown at this point, there will be no turning back from a future of devastating events, including rising sea levels, severe droughts, flooding, massive storms, and widespread food and water shortages.
How Can You Help Fight Climate Change?
Walk or bike when you can, carpool, reduce electricity usage in your home, install solar panels on your roof, purchase carbon offsets, eat locally, and waste as little as possible. More ways you can help at home, at work, at school, and on the road are available at epa.gov. As you consider your New Year’s resolutions for 2016, think of little changes you could make to help create a cleaner environment. Please comment below on ways you plan to help fight climate change.
Featured photo by Chris Goldberg/Flickr