In his annual letter, Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems, says that he expects an effort to “on-shore” everything from raw materials to finished products as an “historic expansion of solar and storage” is set to “exponentially increase” demand.
As one example, the executive points to First Solar’s recently announced plan to increase U.S. module manufacturing by over 3 GW.
In his letter, Horwitz says that he expects the Biden administration to incentivize what he says will be “the wholesale reorganization of supply lines” (including lithium, cobalt, graphite, and other rare earth materials) within the battery market and fund new research and development into battery and alternative energy technology.
He says this will lead to more mining in the United States, but also more processing, almost all of which is currently done in China.
Washington, D.C.-based Sol Systems was founded in 2008 and has developed or financed more than 1 GW of solar projects valued at more than $1 billion for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, counties, utilities, universities, and schools.
Horwitz is a co-founder of the company and previously was an attorney at Alston & Bird, where he worked on developing and financing solar and wind facilities.
Horwitz says that his company supports Biden administration goals to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, and lays out a trio of priorities that he says will “prove instrumental” to success.
First, “immediately reduce tariffs that do little to end a trade war with China.” He says taking this step would improve the United States’ ability to compete within the global solar energy market. He says that since 2018, more than 60,000 renewable energy jobs and nearly $20 billion have been lost due to solar import tariffs. Cutting solar import tariffs would reduce the costs of solar modules by at least 20%, “driving significant clean energy investment and jobs growth throughout the U.S.” He says an effective tool to incentivize domestic production is to use tax cuts or low-interest loans.
Second, he calls on utilities, the federal government, and industry to work together to invest in and rebuild the nation’s aging transmission and distribution infrastructure. He says that the same utilities that will benefit from a 10-20% increase in load from electric cars are “economically aligned with the renewable energy industry” in retrofitting and rebuilding the grid in a more efficient, equitable, and sustainable way.
Third, he joins others in calling for implementation of a national market-based renewable portfolio standard (RPS) or a clean energy standard (CES). Today, 37 states have an RPS and a national RPS has support within Congress, too. He says that as Congress and the administration begin to transition to a clean energy economy, “accuracy, credibility, and tested solutions will be critical” to the success of meeting national energy goals.
Horwitz says that renewable energy development and operations create a “generational opportunity” to drive long-term investment and jobs in communities that have historically been left behind, as well as those communities that will be impacted by the transition to renewable and clean energy.
He lays out three approaches to more fully involve those communities.
First, he says that the industry has a “very real opportunity” to better attract, retain, and promote both minorities and women. Current industry leaders can do that by collaborating on best practices, mentoring, and focusing on community impact and investment.
Second, he says that many of the largest customers and investors in the world are focused on developing and implementing structures and strategies that benefit under-resourced communities, communities of color, and those communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate change or otherwise left behind. He says that solar developers and operators have a responsibility to “lean in with these customers and investors” to develop renewable energy assets more thoughtfully. He notes that Sol recently worked with the University of Illinois on a zero-waste project and designed a Power Purchase and Community Investment Agreement with Microsoft.
Third, he says the industry must work with “adjacent organizations” that are focused on these priorities. Driving diversity into the renewable and clean energy industry requires an integrated approach that creates “temporal pathways for support and success.”
Pathways must begin early with high school students, then college students, then within the industry and in parallel industries, he says. His company supports the Urban Alliance in its work with urban high-school students, as well as CELI’s EDICT initiative, a program that pairs BIPOC college students with opportunities in the renewable and clean energy industry.
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