Texas benefits from a strong solar industry. Solar is a stabilizing force in Texas’ volatile energy market and is well-positioned to support the state as it recovers from the ongoing pandemic. The solar industry creates safe jobs that are keeping Texans employed and provides access to affordable and reliable power. A minor change in federal legislation will enable solar to continue to make this possible.
Currently, the industry employs more than 10,000 Texans and has continued to do so throughout the crisis. Our companies — Nextracker, McCarthy and Swinerton — have built solar power plants across the state that power more than 4.9 million homes. These projects keep thousands of people safely employed and provide stable income to the ranchers whose land hosts our energy infrastructure. The projects also ensure Texans have access to reliable, clean power as electricity demands continue to increase.
Worker safety is always paramount, but even more so today. Solar power plant construction is largely done outdoors in small, well-separated groups, and now companies have added masks and social distancing to safety procedures. High potential industry growth also means that solar jobs are secure for the long term. Solar employs traditional energy workers with transferable skills in construction, development and project management. In an annual survey of solar employment by the Solar Foundation, Texas ranks fifth in the nation, with solar jobs located across the state and held by Texans who started their careers in other energy sectors.
Low-cost, reliable power
Texans are smart and want low-cost, reliable power. Even with COVID-19 impacts, ERCOT is still forecasting an all-time peak load this summer. Because of Texas’ diversified energy portfolio, specifically the increase of solar and wind, the rapidly growing demand for electricity across the state will be met.
In addition, the cost of large solar plants has fallen, making solar, along with onshore wind, the cheapest sources of new generation for two-thirds of the globe — and Texas is no different. The state has no special mandates or incentives for solar, but, since the economics make sense, it is the fifth-largest market in the United States, with 4.6 gigawatts of projects completed.
Small policy change, big impact
To continue to meet changing power demands and keep Texans employed across the state, the solar industry needs a small policy change to existing legislation. The minor adjustment by Congress of converting the solar investment tax credit to a direct-cash payment would have a huge impact on the industry. If granted, Texas would receive an up-front boost to solar financing for homeowners, businesses and developers. This means more jobs for installers and contractors and access to clean, reliable power across the state.
The ITC, which was implemented in 2006, has been an American success story, helping the industry grow more than 10,000 percent. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports the ITC has generated more than $140 billion in private investment, resulting in more than 2 million solar installations in communities across all 50 states. And last year the solar industry supported 250,000 American jobs.
At a time when Congress is trying to balance the needs of many, asking for attention to this matter may seem trivial. It is not. This minor tweak to current federal legislation has no impact on federal budgets nor does it take away support from other industries. Smart policy from the federal government will ensure that solar adoption can grow and drive economic recovery in Texas and across the nation.
Scott Canada is the senior vice president of the Renewable Energy & Storage group at McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. George Hershman is president of San Diego-based Swinerton Renewable Energy and is the chair of the SEIA board of directors. Dan Shugar is CEO of Nextracker, the No. 1 smart solar tracking company based in Fremont, Calif., a board member of SEIA and a member of the American Council on Renewable Energy’s Leadership Council. Nextracker is also a member of the Texas Solar Power Association.
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