The right federal policies could boost the share of solar in the United States electricity mix from 3% today to more than 40% in 2035, according to a memo published Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy.
A successful effort to quickly ramp up the industry would depend on Congressional action to introduce tax credits for renewable energy projects and component manufacturing, Reuters reports.
“The memo is part of a push by the White House to pump up solar as a jobs engine and pivotal pillar in the climate change agenda of President Joe Biden,” the news agency writes. To hit the target, “the industry needs to grow at three or four times its current rate, creating up to 1.5 million jobs, according to an unpublished analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory cited in the memo.”
The NREL analysis supports Biden’s pitch “that a transition away from fossil fuels can create millions of good-paying union jobs while countering climate change,” Reuters adds.
The U.S. Senate has already passed a bipartisan, US$1-trillion infrastructure package, complete with grid modernization funding that will indirectly support solar. But the real payoff will come from a separate, $3.5-trillion plan that Democrats are now angling to pass using a budget mechanism that won’t require Republican votes. It’s expected to include a 10-year extension for existing renewable energy tax credits and new incentives for solar manufacturing, as well as an all-important clean electricity standard.
“It really is the clean energy tax credits that are going to be drivers for production and for the manufacturing sector,” White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy told Reuters.
The wire story notes that solar still “lags several other energy sectors in wages,” and the DoE memo said the industry has “room to improve” in creating the union jobs Biden has been promising.