Interview: Rhone Resch, SEIA

Reg Tucker

Part 1. As Solar Power International 2013 kicks off in Chicago, Reg Tucker speaks to Rhone Resch about his hopes for a solar future...

ON THE cusp of Solar Power International (SPI 2013), Renewable Energy Focus magazine recently caught up with Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry in the United States.

Representing an industry of more than 5,600 companies and 119,000 employees, Resch is the architect of the Association's strategic priorities designed to achieve a 10 GW annual market in the US by 2015, including all Federal and state advocacy on behalf of the industry. In the last 8 years as the President of SEIA, he helped create the 30% investment tax credit, the 1603 Treasury Program, and more than 18 other provisions that have helped grow the industry from 52 MW/year market in 2004 to 3,300 MW in 2012.

REF: SPI 2013 is fast approaching. What are your expectations for the event?

Rhone Resch (RR): We're looking forward to another signature event this year in Chicago. SPI remains North America's premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy. It's a great place to swap ideas, learn about new, cutting-edge technologies and to interface, one-on-one, with industry leaders.

This year, we also have a tremendous educational lineup in place, which will give attendees a better understanding of the solar industry and its future. Start-Up Alley is yet another new wrinkle at SPI. From a large pool of applicants, 12 companies have been chosen to “pitch” their business proposals to a panel of highly distinguished entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders.

Start-Up Alley is an exciting new feature at SPI that promotes the ideas of up-and-coming companies in the solar industry. So, from business growth and development to markets and marketing strategies, SPI has something for everyone.

REF: You recently attended RETECH, the 5th Annual Renewable Energy Technology Conference & Exhibition held in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9–11. A recurring theme of many of the general sessions and break-out talks was “policy roadblocks” that are standing in the way of progress on the renewable energy front. What is SEIA's position on this issue?

RR: Without question, the adoption and expansion of smart, forward-looking public policies – such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) – remain critically important to the future growth of America's solar energy industry.

As an organisation, advocating on behalf of these policies (both at the federal and state levels) is SEIA's number one job. Today, solar employs nearly 120,000 Americans at 5,600 companies, most of which are small businesses spread all across the United States, making solar one of the fastest-growing industries in America. Currently, there are 38 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects under construction in the U.S. – utilising both CSP and PV technologies – putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers and labourers to work, while also helping to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

These facilities, along with rooftop solar on homes, businesses and schools, will generate clean electricity for generations to come. What's more, innovative solar heating and cooling systems are offering American consumers cost-efficient, effective options for meeting their energy needs, while lowering their utility bills.

As an industry, we have a great story to tell, and 2013 promises to go down as a record-shattering year for solar. Clearly, the progressive policies that SEIA champions are a big reason for this tremendous success.

REF: Related to that, can you touch on the latest political developments affecting renewables, or solar in particular? For instance, President Obama has publicly said he is behind renewables. Is there policy action yet? If not, why not, and when can we expect it?

RR: Among other things, President Obama is leading by example, and he should be congratulated for making solar a shining symbol at the White House for clean, renewable energy. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress on even more ways to expand the use of solar throughout the Federal Government.

Today, solar is generating enough electricity to power more than 1.5 million American homes, and we're extraordinarily proud to be adding the White House to this constantly growing list. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – taking a cue from the President – removed 300,000 acres of land from new mining claims in order to foster even more solar development on public lands.

DoE Secretary Ernest Moniz is also an unabashed fan of solar, and he has been helpful to our industry time and time again. So, despite the gridlock in Congress, President Obama has found many creative and highly visible ways to advance the cause of clean solar energy in America.

Part 2 out tomorrow...

Rhone Resch was talking to Reginald Tucker of Renewable Energy Focus magazine.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity