Gabrielle Giffords

Supporting A Solar Carve-Out - June 11, 2009

Gabrielle Giffords
June 11, 2009— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Speaker, our Nation today is facing many great challenges, but there are three in particular that specifically I think are of great concern to the American people: Achieving energy independence, addressing climate change and stimulating our economy. These are all significant challenges, but they also present great opportunities. As we confront these issues, we have the chance to make our world stronger, safer and more prosperous.

One of the best ways to do this is by deploying renewable energy. Renewable energy sources, especially solar, our Nation's most abundant renewable energy source, offers a real solution to these challenges I just mentioned. Our solar resource is vast, it's domestic, and it's free. It is clean, and it generates electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the solar power industry is growing and creating good-paying jobs. For all of these reasons, solar is important to America.

This is why I'm concerned about the way that solar power is treated in the energy and climate bill that recently emerged from the Energy and Commerce Committee. I commend Chairmen WAXMAN and MARKEY and their committee colleagues for their persistence and skill in moving the legislation forward. However, I have to express my deep concern that this bill does not do nearly enough to promote solar power, one of the best solutions for our Nation's energy and climate challenges. The current Waxman-Markey legislation would establish a Federal renewable electricity standard, or RES, of 20 percent by 2020, and that's a good goal. The State of Arizona is 15 percent by 2025. However, the bill fails to establish an carve-out for any specific type of renewable like solar; and in my view, this constitutes an enormous missed opportunity. The primary reason to establish a RES is to create an assured level of demand for renewable electricity. This assured demand allows renewable technologies to increase production, learn by doing and bring their prices down. This allows them to become cost competitive with traditional energy sources. However, without carve-outs for different resources, the RES will fall short of its own potential. Instead of creating demand for all renewables, it's going to give preference to those that cost the least, and currently that is wind and biomass. Without assured demand, solar will miss out on an opportunity that the RES was designed to create. It will not grow as fast as it otherwise could, and it will not become as cost competitive as quickly as it needs to.

Now I have nothing against wind and biomass. But if we develop these resources at the expense of a more diverse portfolio, we will lose our opportunity to stimulate our domestic solar industry that can compete in a global marketplace. I understand the reluctance to pick technology winners and losers. In fact, I agree with that. But I'm not talking about picking a technology. I'm talking about picking a resource, and that is a big difference. It is impossible to imagine a future powered by renewables that does not include a significant amount of solar energy. We may not yet know what that best type of solar technology will ultimately be, but we do know and the rest of the world knows that we want it to come from the sun, and we want it to be solar. Therefore, it's in our national interest to ensure that the U.S. solar industry is the strongest in the world, and we should do so by continuing to promote and innovate. Solar power, yes, is in its infancy today; but we need to make sure that in the future it really drives America.

Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker. And as we work towards implementing solar technology in our legislation, I just want to thank my colleagues for spending time to learn about this important resource.

To do that, we should establish an effective incentive in the form of a 20 percent solar carve-out within the RES.

A couple weeks ago, researchers at the University of Arizona in my hometown of Tucson were awarded a $15 million grant to create an Energy Frontier Research Center. They are working to develop ultrathin solar panels that use dyes to create electricity from sunlight. This project is tremendously exciting, but as we invest in these technologies, we must ensure we are creating a market to use them.

In the race to become the global solar leader, the clock is ticking and the competition is fierce. America does not have time to waste with poorly designed policies. This is why I call on my colleagues to support a solar carve-out within the RES. It is a proven mechanism to develop a truly diverse renewable portfolio that includes solar power.

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