Bipartisan congressional solar caucus coalesces after tariff decision

These days, there are so few truly bipartisan efforts in Congress, it’s news when two members from opposing parties even talk with each other. But solar appears to be one of the few issues that can bring both sides together.

Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) and Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina) recently announced the formation of what is reportedly the first solar-specific caucus in the House of Representatives, making it the 695th caucus in the House. Yes, you read that right – there’s more than one caucus for each of the representatives (1.6, to be exact).

pv magazine was not able to find details regarding any other members of the caucus.

Krishnamoorthi is the first Congressman to come directly from the solar industry, having been the president of Sivananthan Laboratories, a technology research firm that has a solar connection. He is also the co-founded InSPIRE, a non-profit that provides inner-city students and veterans with training in solar technology.

Norman ran his family’s commercial real estate company and has supported the solar industry as South Carolina’s market has started to rise.

“The Solar Caucus will work on a bipartisan basis to find common ground to tackle issues facing solar business and communities,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We will raise awareness for how policymakers, business leaders, and academic experts can work together to foster jobs, growth, and America’s leadership in the solar industry.”

As pv magazine has reported, Illinois has begun putting the policies in place that will position it as a potential solar leader in the Midwest. South Carolina has a significant pipeline of solar projects with contracts acquired under the auspices of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), but the policy environment is still somewhat uncertain.

Industry analysts have posited President Donald Trump’s decision last month to impose 30% tariffs on solar cell and module imports could devastate the industry in budding solar states like South Carolina and Illinois, so the development of a solar caucus by representatives from those two states in particular could be a sign of a nascent opposition in Congress to Trump’s decision.\

Christopher Mansour, SEIA’s vice president of federal affairs. applauded the move.

“We welcome the creation of the Congressional Solar Caucus with open arms and thank the founders, Rep. Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Norman, for taking such a proactive approach,” Mansour said. “As indicated by this caucus, both sides of the aisle agree that solar is a growing, critically important part of our nation’s electricity mix that strengthens America’s communities from coast to coast.”

This article was edited at 1:35 pm on 2/20/2018 to reflect that Rep. Norman ran his family’s company instead of just working for it.