US Continues to Fall Behind In Solar Energy But New Renewable Law in Illinois Will Help

China, Germany and Canada are powering up solar recognizing importing oil is not the future. Where is the United States in this? Dispite numerous wars protecting human rights… mostly in oil producing nations, a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico we have all forgotten about, America is still trending up.

There are a few bright spots in the country but mostly those heros are on the local levels. When you think solar California might come to mind, but New Jersey is coming in second. Wait, o Ya, Illinois just passed a new energy law requiring 25% of their power from solar, wind and other renewables by 2025.

While the green solar industry continues to bloom around the world the United States as a whole is falling behind in the global clean-energy race.  A record $243 billion was invested around the world in clean solar and wind energy last year, according to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts. While the United States saw a 51 percent increase in solar and wind energy investments last year, Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew Clean Energy Programs, says it slipped down a notch in competitive position.

“The United States, which had dropped in solar and wind energy installations from first to second in 2009, has slipped even further down the ladder to No. 3 behind both China and Germany.”

Cuttino says nations without clear energy policies focusing on solar and wind power lost investors, but the United States stayed in the game thanks in part to 30 states, including Illinois, which passed their own energy standards. Illinois law requires utilities to produce 25 percent of their electricity with renewables by 2025.

Cuttino says state solar energy laws can encourage investment but more needs to be done on the national level.

“What’s keeping the United States in the game? This patchwork of state policies, 30 solar and wind electricity standards with California, New Jersey and now Illinois. That’s what’s keeping America in the game, but that’s not enough over the long term.”

The United States pioneered much of solar technology and once exported 40 percent of the world’s solar panels, she says, but now it imports more than half of our solar panels from China.

Mark Burger, president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, says Illinois is making some progress when it comes to clean-energy investment helping to fix this broken economy.

“Things get done on kind of a piecemeal basis, almost if not haphazard. It almost happens not because of, but in spite of.” Burger says new policies in Illinois have helped somewhat. “Illinois is one of the top 10 states in large-scale wind power. They are not in the top 10 in solar or small-scale wind.”

While the United States came in second in wind-energy capacity worldwide, the study says, it installed 50 percent fewer gigawatts of wind power last year than in 2009.

Source: Public News Service, Mary Meyers