Sen. Bernie Sanders Remarks - Nov. 4, 2013

Senator Bernie Sanders
November 4, 2013
Williston, Vt.

I am excited to be here today with all of you to officially launch the Vermont Regional Test Center. Many people and organizations worked hard to make this happen. I want to thank Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and the Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories, IBM, and Governor Shumlin and the State of Vermont. Others that deserve recognition include: Mary Powell, Josh Castongay, and the rest of the Green Mountain Power crew; and Dr. John Evans, Dr. Melody Burkins, and their colleagues at the University of Vermont. Thanks to all of these folks and the many other supporters working behind the scenes for their hard work.

In 2008, I visited Sandia’s lab in New Mexico, and it became clear that there was huge potential for a Vermont-Sandia partnership. That visit was the beginning of a friendship and a partnership committed to creating a national lab presence in Vermont. Today we are celebrating a significant milestone in that relationship: the launching of the Vermont Regional Test Center – one of five such centers in the country.

The Regional Test Center is a $3 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which aims for a 75 percent reduction in the cost of solar energy by 2020 and to make solar power account for at least 15 percent of America’s electricity generation by 2030. 

The Regional Test Center will help solar manufacturers with critical research and testing on how different kinds of solar panels work under different conditions, including Vermont’s high precipitation and cold weather climate. The Test Center will research ways to keep cutting the cost of solar power. And this facility will help solve the challenges of fully integrating solar panels into Vermont’s statewide smart grid.

I am particularly excited about the facility because Vermont is the perfect place for a test center focused on solar and the smart grid:

  • We have a state government and local governments that welcome opportunities to test and deploy cutting edge technologies.
  • We have ambitious renewable energy goals, calling for 90% of our energy needs to be met with renewable energy by 2050.
  • We are home to some of the most forward-thinking utilities in the country, a vibrant ecosystem of renewable energy companies, and a robust community of renewable energy advocates. 
  • We already have smart meters in more than 90% of our homes across the state. 

We have a bold vision here in Vermont and across the country for an energy transformation: phasing fossil fuels out as quickly as possible in favor of clean, renewable energy. 

Solar energy is a central part of that vision. People understand that solar has huge potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create good jobs.

And the solar industry is booming. Solar is growing at 30% a year in the U.S., and internationally it’s growing at more than 50% a year. Across America we’re installing one solar project every four minutes.

Despite this skyrocketing growth, American solar manufacturers are struggling and are losing market share to China. In the face of this shifting solar market, the United States must remain a leader in renewable energy innovation, and we need to ensure that American manufacturers can compete in the solar manufacturing market.

The heart of the answer to this challenge is making smart and sustained investments in research, innovation, and commercialization, and the Vermont Regional Test Center is a powerful illustration of how this is done.

Vermont stands to gain a great deal from the test center, as well. Investment in Vermont’s solar industry grew 249% in 2012. In addition to helping Vermont’s solar manufacturers, the research conducted here will help us take full advantage of Vermont’s statewide smart grid, which will make it easier for families and business to use less energy, for Vermont’s utilities to avoid expensive new power plants and infrastructure, and for the entire state to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

The Regional Test Center will help attract continued university and private sector investment in renewable energy research and businesses. And this project will help Vermont’s solar industry innovate and grow, creating good jobs throughout the state.

The Vermont Regional Test Center embodies the kind of bold vision and cross-sector collaboration that Vermont is known for. I’m proud to have supported this project and I thank you all for working together to make it happen.