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Solar Shines on the Hill Day 2019: Recap

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This week, I had the opportunity to join the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for their Solar Shines on the Hill Day.  The event is a great opportunity to show up in force in Washington DC in support of the solar industry, talking about how the solar jobs that exist throughout the country, and the financial and environmental benefits that home- and business-owners experience from solar in every state. Here’s a quick recap of what we spoke about and what we learned. 

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Two key talking points: ITC extension and tariff impact

The end of the year in Congress is always a mad dash to complete and pass spending bills, many of which have tax policy extenders written into them. This year is no different: with the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) on the verge of its first step down at the end of the year, Representative Mike Thompson introduced the Renewable Energy Extension Act, which would extend the ITC for five more years. The primary goal of the Solar Shines on the Hill Day was to show up in support of that extension.

Second, the Solar Shines on the Hill Day fell on the same exact day as the US International Trade Commission’s mid-term review of the Section 201 tariffs on imported solar products. In 2018, EnergySage found that in just nine months, price increases associated with the solar tariffs effectively levied a quarter-billion-dollar tax that was paid for by solar shoppers. Recently, SEIA’s own analysis found the tariffs have led to 60,000 fewer solar jobs, and a loss of nearly $11 billion of solar investment. Those of us in town for the Solar Shines on the Hill Day also attended the hearings to demonstrate our opposition to extending these tariffs.

Extending the ITC is a bipartisan effort

Support for the Renewable Energy Extension Act is gaining a lot of steam in Congress. In fact, the bill already has 80 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, including 15 republicans. At a time when reaching across the aisle to craft policy has become increasingly rare, this sort of bipartisan support speaks to a truth about the industry: solar is not just a blue state issue! 

Solar creates local jobs and saves home- and business-owners money in red states and blue states all the same. And, given that the federal ITC has been one of the biggest drivers for growth in the industry since its last extension at the end of 2015, passing the Renewable Energy Extension Act would provide the certainty the industry needs to continue to grow and build jobs and companies throughout the country, regardless of party lines. 

Personal stories matter to Congress

My group of solar industry professionals met with the offices of five different Members of the House of Representatives: James McGovern (D-MA), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Alma Adams (D-NC), Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ). In each meeting, one of us in the room was a constituent of that Member’s district, which allowed us to speak to the impact that the ITC has had on their specific constituency. 

Those personal stories are what drive home the impact of policy. Every Member of Congress wants to support jobs and economic development in their district, and to ensure a high quality of life for their voters. Hearing that the ITC has led to 120 new jobs in manufacturing in their district (as was the case for one of my colleagues from Indiana) had a palpable impact on Representative Walorski, who is his elected official. Telling the story of what installing solar has meant for you and your business or family can have the exact same impact of helping to positively impact the future of solar policy in the country.

The author with Representative Jackie Walorski.

How you can support the solar industry

It doesn’t take a trip to DC to support the solar industry – there are plenty of ways you show your support from the comfort of your home. First up, you can call or email your elected officials to help defend the ITC. The odds are good that they’ll be in favor of supporting local solar jobs and decreased energy bills for their constituents, though it’s important that they hear from their voters to know that this is an issue that they care about. One tip from SEIA is to ask your elected officials not just to vote in favor of the extension but also to stress to house leadership how important passing these extenders can be. 

Next, a great way to support the solar industry is to invest in solar yourself! Installing solar panels on your home or business supports local jobs and helps drive the economic growth of your region while also providing you near- and long-term financial savings. Truly a win-win! To get started with your own solar project, sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive custom solar quotes from local solar companies. 

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Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2020

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