N.H. can lead in boosting solar energy

While New Hampshire may be better known for its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, the presence of the solar energy industry here is hard to deny. There are more than 30 solar manufacturers, installers and dealers based in the Granite State, and the number continues to grow.

Last year, nationwide, the solar industry attracted $10 billion in investment and
created more than 6,000 green-collar jobs. Its manufacturing grew by 74 percent. It is no coincidence, then, that 94 percent of Americans strongly support our nation’s development and use of its solar resources, according to a June 10 poll by Kelton Research.

Gov. John Lynch has recognized the potential of solar as a source of jobs and economic growth. In 2007, he signed into law a renewable portfolio standard that will require that 25 percent of New Hampshire’s energy come from renewable sources by 2025 and includes a carve-out specifically for solar technology. He also signed a letter with his fellow governors on July 23 urging congressional leaders to extend tax provisions that encourage development of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.

These tax provisions include a 30 percent federal solar investment tax credit for companies and homeowners that install solar. These credits – whose cost to taxpayers over 10 years is less than 1 percent of the $40 billion per year we pay to subsidize fossil fuel industries – is scheduled to expire at the end of 2008.

It is imperative that we invest our tax dollars wisely, not on the behalf of the oil barons who already report billions in profits while we suffer at the pump, but rather on behalf of the American public who want to see further investment in clean energy and will benefit from tens of thousands of green-tech jobs. Every solar plant we build creates roughly twice the jobs of a similar-scale coal plant.

Solar energy companies need a stable fiscal environment to attract investors and to complete large-scale solar projects and manufacturing plants, which require several years for planning and construction.

Without an eight-year extension of the solar tax credits, investors are wary and projects are already being delayed, abandoned, or exported overseas.

The solar tax credits have come up for a vote eight times in the U.S. Senate since June 2007, and each time they have been defeated by those who objected to Democratic efforts to avoid tax increases by offsetting ITC funding with reductions in oil and fossil fuel subsidies and tax loopholes for the Cayman Islands accounts used by hedge fund managers.

New Hampshire Sens. John Sununu and Judd Gregg have a great opportunity to lead on this issue, considering our nation’s priorities and the public’s tremendous support for clean, renewable energy, particularly solar. They can reach across the aisle and work out a compromise to get this bill done.

According to Navigant Consulting, the United States will lose 116,000 jobs and $19 billion in investment now through 2009 if the tax credits for solar and wind are allowed to lapse in December – at a time when we need these jobs and investment most.

Solar energy is great for our economy and our energy independence. Our leaders can make a big impact by supporting and passing this common-sense policy now.

Jim Callihan is co-founder and president of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, an online portal for renewable energy information based in Peterborough. Paul Gromer is executive director of the Solar Energy Business Association of New England and president of Peregrine Energy Group, an energy consulting firm based in Boston.

Categories: Opinion