WASHINGTON, July 21 – The Senate energy committee today approved, 13 to 10, a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to encourage the installation over 10 years of 10 million solar systems in American homes and businesses.
As part of a broader effort to transform the energy system in the United States, the measure would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It would authorize $250 million for competitive grants in 2012 and additional funding through 2021.
Along with existing incentives, the program could meet and exceed the goal of installing 10 million solar systems over a 10-year period, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The legislation would help finance the installation of up to 40,000 megawatts of new solar energy. In the process, the cost of generating solar power would fall and the United States would become the world’s leading market for electricity generated from the sun.
“We are losing the race for solar jobs, and falling behind other nations in solar installations. That must change,” said Sanders, chairman of the Senate’s green jobs subcommittee. “The question is whether we will take advantage of clean, renewable solar energy or let other countries create solar jobs using technology developed in America. I think we can lead, this bill will help us do that.”
The solar cell was invented in the United States, but Japan, Germany, Spain and other nations have outpaced the U.S. in taking advantage of solar technology. China and India also have ambitious solar development plans, and five of the top 10 solar panel makers are now from China.
In Vermont, there has been enormous growth in solar power. Businesses and utilities understand solar energy is real and becoming more cost-effective. “We are making some progress, but with a stronger push we could see an explosion of solar in Vermont and all across this country,” Sanders said.
After the measure cleared committee, Sanders asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to include S. 3460, the Ten Million Solar Roofs legislation, in energy and climate change legislation he is expected to bring before the full Senate this summer. “With an investment of $250 million in fiscal year 2012, and $500 million annually from 2013-2021, we could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States while we also reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Sanders wrote to Reid.