According to a memorandum issued by the Department of Energy on Tuesday, if Congress adopts tax credits and other policies for renewable energy job projects and component factories, solar energy can provide more than 40% of national electricity by 2035, up from 3% today.
The memo is part of the White House’s efforts to promote solar energy as a job engine and the cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s climate change agenda.
As officials link the government’s legislative priorities in the process, the industry is also at the center, with Secretary of Labor Mattie Walsh touring the new First Solar Inc plant in Ohio on Tuesday, which will create approximately 500 jobs.
According to an unpublished analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory cited in the memo, to increase solar power generation to nearly half of the power generation in the United States, the industry needs to grow three to four times the current rate-creating as many as 1.5 million jobs post.
The research supports Biden’s argument that the transition from fossil fuels can create millions of high-paying union jobs while tackling climate change. Its goal is to keep the US energy sector away from fossil fuels by 2035.
The $1 trillion infrastructure plan approved by the US Senate last week is expected to support solar energy through investments in the modernization of the power grid. But the White House is focusing on utility tax credits and clean power payment plans that can be bundled into a single 3.5 trillion-dollar spending plan to drive industry growth. “It really is the clean energy tax credits that are going to be drivers for production and the manufacturing sector,” Gina McCarthy, White House climate advisor, said in an interview.
Solar projects are currently eligible for a 26% tax credit, which is being phased out. Biden promoted a 10-year extension and new incentives for manufacturing solar modules. Though the memo outlines the sector’s potential to create jobs, it notes that solar has “room to improve” in creating union jobs. Solar also lags several other energy sectors in wages, according to some studies.