top of page

Federal government does not give solar industry “special support”

A May 1 report claims that the U.S. government supports both solar and traditional energy sources equally, contrary to critics’ claims that the solar industry has received unnecessary aid.

Scholars from the Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee released a study titled “Assessment of Incentives and Employment Impacts of Solar Industry Deployment,” finding that the solar industry’s incentive-supported trajectory is the same as traditional energy sources before it.

This study comes after a painful year for the U.S. solar industry, with accusations that the Obama administration has been unfairly helping solar firms after high-profile bankruptcies and a brewing trade dispute.

Credit: Solar Energy Industries Association

But according to the Baker Center, solar energy “has a lower total incentive cost than the wind, ethanol, or energy efficiency industries that are further along the adoption path,” and that solar has produced more jobs per megawatt-hour than any other energy industry.

The report finds that solar incentives are working, and continued incentives could lead to “increased employment, global business opportunities, and energy supply diversity.”

The study claims that each significant energy source, such as oil, natural gas and coal, had about 30 years of innovation and early adoption before mainstream acceptance, during which these industries were aided by the government.

“Just like older energy sources like coal, oil, and gas, solar energy is providing real, tangible benefits to America today,” said Tom Kimbis, Vice President of Strategy and External Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, the group that commissioned the report.

“Policies designed to increase America’s use of solar are incredibly successful and generating benefits across the nation. It would be a serious mistake for policymakers in Washington, D.C., and in statehouses across the country, to walk away from good public policy.”

Kimbis told Reuters that the findings of this report are particularly important at this time when the industry is under increased scrutiny. “What’s missing has been a fair and balanced analysis of what incentives other energy sources receive,” he said. “It seems solar is being called out because the failure of one company.”

The report emphasized the fact that no energy source has gained market share without such incentives, and that federal investment into solar energy has thus far been “modest in a long-term historical context relative to other energy technologies.”

The study stressed the need to continue support for the solar industry, as “economic growth becomes ever more dependent on abundant, affordable, and sustainable energy supplies,” solar energy would make the U.S. less sensitive to supply disruptions and price changes of other fuels.

“Rooftop solar power alone could provide 20% of our electricity needs,” said the report.

According to the study, “history shows that new industries are the source of growth in an economy and mature industries tend to either maintain or lose jobs over the long term, [so] effective incentives from an economic standpoint are those that address industries in the early adoption stage,” such as the solar industry.

The researchers estimate that the solar industry will provide between 240,000 and 965,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs by 2030. Exports could provide another 67,700 jobs if the U.S. maintains its current share of the global solar market.

According to Matt Murray, director the Baker Center, the report proves “the solar industry’s great potential for the US economy—not only in the diversification of our energy supply, but also through job creation and global business opportunities.”

Read the full report here.


bottom of page