Solar could supply more than 40 percent of the United States’ electricity by 2035 as compared with 3 percent today – if Congress adopts policies like tax credits for renewable energy projects and component factories, according to a memo published on Tuesday by the Department of Energy.
The sector is taking center stage as officials plug the administration’s legislative priorities on the road, with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh touring a new First Solar facility in Ohio on Tuesday that is expected to create about 500 jobs.
The industry needs to grow at three or four times its current rate, creating up to 1.5 million jobs, to propel solar to nearly half of U.S. generation, according to an unpublished analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory cited in the memo.
The study supports President Joe Biden’s argument that a transition away from fossil fuels can create millions of good-paying union jobs while countering climate change. He has a goal to shift the U.S. power sector away from fossil fuels by 2035.
The $1 trillion infrastructure plan approved by the U.S. Senate last week is expected to support solar through investments in modernizing the electricity grid. But the White House is zeroing in on tax credits and a clean electricity payment program for utilities – which may be included in a separate $3.5 trillion spending package – to supercharge industry growth.
Solar projects are currently eligible for a 26 percent tax credit that is in the process of being phased out. Biden has pushed for a 10-year extension, as well as incentives for manufacturing solar components.