Solar industry urges Perry to shield programs eyed for budget cuts

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017

The solar industry urged Energy Secretary Rick Perry to support programs targeted for severe budget cuts during a Washington, D.C., meeting yesterday.

Solar Energy Industries Association President Abigail Ross Hopper and about 30 of SEIA’s board members also stressed solar jobs and the importance of the investment tax credit for their industry during the discussion at DOE headquarters.

The meeting was the first public engagement by Perry as secretary in a meeting with the renewable industry and came as Congress weighs deep reductions to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Perry later posted a photo of the meeting on Twitter with the caption “shining a light on the power of the solar industry.”

Perry and SEIA members did not directly address proposed budget cuts for EERE outlined by President Trump last month, according to Hopper. The funding cuts could hit programs like the SunShot Initiative — which funds projects to cut solar costs — and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which gets most of its funding from EERE (Greenwire, March 10).

“We didn’t frame it in terms of the proposed budget cuts. We framed it in terms of the important contributions that investments in those programs had made to the solar industry,” Hopper said in an interview.

Instead, the board members outlined how research either at the national labs or in DOE’s SunShot program had been critical for their businesses, according to Hopper.

Perry was engaged and asked a lot of questions but did not specify solar programs he supported, Hopper said.

“We didn’t ask him to take a position, and he didn’t offer a position,” said Hopper, who described the discussion as “very positive.”

Perry talked about the need for an all-of-the-above energy strategy and said “solar is an important piece of that,” Hopper added. He also discussed energy storage, cybersecurity and turning the Texas model for transmission corridors into a national strategy, she said.

“The secretary was well-briefed. He knew about our industry. He knew about where Texas stood,” said Hopper.

The meeting occurred at SEIA’s request because the organization’s board members were in town. Also present were DOE staff and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a solar lobbyist.

In 2015, Congress extended the investment tax credit for solar as part of a budget deal. There’s been speculation that Congress could try to undo the credits as part of a tax reform package deal, although some analysts think that’s unlikely (Climatewire, April 4).