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How Bright Is Solar Power's Future In A Post-Solyndra America?

Publication Date: 
October 18, 2011
Source: 
PBS Newshour
Author: 
Gwen Ifill

Dan Reicher, Executive Director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, is interviewed by Spencer Michels in the following PBS Newshour segment on the future of solar power in light of Solyndra's collapse.

After the Obama administration-embraced solar-panel company Solyndra collapsed and defaulted on its government-backed loans, the surging U.S. solar industry is suddenly worried that the subsidies it receives -- tax credits and loans guarantees -- could dry up in the face of opposition from conservatives. Spencer Michels reports.

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SPENCER MICHELS: His firm, SolarCity, operating in 11 states, is the largest solar installer in the U.S. with 1,300 employees, 500 of them hired in the last 12 months. Nationally, solar employs 100,000 workers.

Yet industry groups and leaders have seen trouble signs ahead for a while.

Dan Reicher, director of Stanford's Center for Energy Policy, says the industry is at risk.

DAN REICHER, Stanford's Center for Energy Policy: We may not see the loan guarantee program extended. We may see a major cut in federal support for clean energy research and development. There's going to be a major battle next year over extending some key tax credits for clean energy.

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SPENCER MICHELS: Since the Solyndra collapse, the administration has announced several new loan guarantees, claiming green energy is a big job creator, a view shared by Stanford's Reicher.

DAN REICHER: Go in and retrofit somebody's home to make it more energy-efficient, there's a lot of jobs there. Put solar panels on the roof, there's a lot of jobs there. Make the chemicals that you need ultimately to make a solar panel, there's jobs there. There's a lot of jobs here to be created in clean energy broadly.

SPENCER MICHELS: Reicher sees tremendous growth potential for green energy.

DAN REICHER: I think the government has a serious role to play, and I would hate to see too serious a pullback, particularly at a moment when the Chinese role is on the rise, when the German role is on the rise, when many other countries around the world are realizing the importance in terms of jobs and economic development of what will literally be a multitrillion-dollar industry over the next couple of decades.

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SPENCER MICHELS: People on all sides of the debate acknowledge that Solyndra's collapse has intensified the battle.

DAN REICHER: I think this has become a political football in Washington. And Solyndra has crystallized this in an unfortunate way.