The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says it is honored to present U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., with the first-ever Lifetime Solar Pugilist Award. SEIA has also announced the selection of four other members of U.S. Congress to receive the prestigious SEIA Solar Champion Award, an honor bestowed upon entities or individuals who have helped strengthen solar power in the country.
Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., were named on Thursday by the association as the latest award recipients for their efforts to promote greater use of solar energy across the U.S.
“Support for solar energy is support for American jobs and innovation,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president. “These five legislators have demonstrated through their leadership in the halls of Congress, their public support and their voting records that they recognize the enormous benefits – from national security to economic development – bestowed on our nation through solar energy. We credit them with recognizing that solar is not a partisan technology, thank them for their relentless support, and proudly present them with these well-deserved awards.”
According to SEIA, Reid has been the strongest advocate for the solar industry ever to serve in Congress. In his capacity as Senate Democratic Leader, Reid served as a key negotiator in securing both long-term extensions of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) in 2008 and 2015 and was the architect of the credit in 2005. Without Reid’s leadership and persistence, SEIA says, the solar industry would not have experienced its vast growth in recent years and the incredible growth to come. With his impending retirement, this first-ever Lifetime Solar Pugilist Award is truly meant as a commendation from a grateful industry in recognition of his long record of leadership in fighting for solar energy, the group notes.
The four recipients of the Solar Champion Award were honored, in particular, for working to preserve and extend the ITC. As a result, SEIA estimates that solar jobs will more than double to 420,000 by the end of the decade from 209,000 U.S. solar jobs now. In addition, solar power in the nation will more than triple during that time, hitting 100 GW by 2020, enough to power 20 million U.S. homes.
According to SEIA, Sen. Dean Heller has emerged as a leading Republican voice for solar energy in the Senate. In an era when Republicans and Democrats often find little common ground, SEIA says Heller has bridged the political divide, standing up for a an industry that is poised to help usher in a modern energy economy. With his position on the Senate Finance Committee, Heller ensured that the ITC remained a key component of the final negotiations of the 2015 tax and budget debate, working with committee and Senate leadership to secure the ITC extension.
SEIA says Sen. Michael Bennet has a longstanding record in support of solar energy. In the 113th Congress, Bennet introduced legislation to allow solar developers to claim the solar ITC based on when they started construction, instead of when the project was finished. In the 114th Congress, Bennet continued this effort, working on a bipartisan basis with his fellow members on the Senate Finance Committee and with Senate leadership. In 2015, Bennet ultimately succeeded in securing that important reform along with a five-year extension of the ITC.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Reed has long established himself as a reasoned, thoughtful leader on the House Ways and Means Committee, says SEIA. He further cemented this reputation when he stepped up his efforts in defense of solar in 2015 to ensure committee and House leadership included an extension of the ITC as part of the final tax and budget deal. To his credit, SEIA continues, Reed recognizes that an “all of the above” approach to U.S. energy policy must include cutting-edge technologies, such as solar, in order to effectively conserve resources, create jobs, and achieve energy security and diversity.
Similarly, SEIA says Rep. Mike Thompson has long been a friend and ally of the solar energy industry. Thompson was an architect of the eight-year extension of the ITC in 2008 that resulted in tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs. Most recently, he was the lead sponsor of the legislation in the 114th Congress (H.R. 2412) that served as the model for the ITC extension that was enacted in 2015. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Thompson has been an invaluable advocate for the solar industry, SEIA concludes.