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Member Speeches :: October 22, 2009

Subcommittee Chairwoman Giffords' Floor Speech on H.R. 3585

as prepared for delivery

Madame Speaker, the United States has some of the best solar resources of any industrialized country in the world – enough to power the whole country several times over – and these resources are not only limited to the American Southwest.
 
It turns out that our friends up north in Alaska have about the same solar resource as all of Germany. And yet, in 2006 Germany installed about seven times more solar power than the entire U.S.
 
Major companies in Europe and China have been very aggressive over the last several years in building up their manufacturing capacity and competing internationally to meet demand. If our policies and innovation models for solar energy don’t change, the U.S. may simply transition from importing foreign oil to importing foreign-made panels.
 
This country actually invented the first photovoltaic technologies, and we still have some of the smartest, most talented people in the world working to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar cells today.
 
But in order to use our precious research dollars as effectively as possible, these people – these patriots – need a serious roadmap, and that’s why I’m so pleased to offer this bill today.
 
After many substantive discussions with a wide range of industry and academic leaders as well as the Department of Energy, I believe there’s a lot that the U.S. solar industry can learn from the experience of our semiconductor industry.
 
20 years ago, the U.S. was in danger of losing its semiconductor industry to Japan. In response, the industry created the Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors. The focus of this initiative was to create a roadmap to guide research and development efforts across the industry.
 
By increasing communication between the diverse members of the supply chain, the U.S. semiconductor industry was able to develop standards and avoid the duplication of research efforts. These organized coordination efforts gave rise to U.S. semiconductor giants like Intel and AMD, and the U.S. currently continues to lead the world in semiconductor development.
 
Today solar researchers in the U.S. find themselves in a similar situation. To maintain a competitive advantage they must come together to meet their common, pre-competitive goals - whether in simulation activities, developing new materials, energy storage, power and grid management, or even weather forecasting. 
 
This bill would require the Department of Energy to engage diverse stakeholders in the solar community and work across programs to create a comprehensive plan – a roadmap – to guide funding for the research needed to make the U.S. the global center for solar innovation. The roadmap would be required to identify short-, medium-, and long-term goals, and make recommendations for how to channel R&D resources to meet those goals.
 
The bill will make DOE more responsive to our solar industry’s needs, and encourage increased collaboration and communication across technologies with well-vetted strategies.
 
I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their contributions that have made this a better bill. In fact about 25 of the 28 changes in our manager’s amendment in Committee were suggested or requested by the Minority.
 
I also look forward to supporting several good amendments offered by my colleagues here today.
 
Another sign of the time and effort we all put into getting this bill right is that it’s been endorsed by industry leaders including the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Solar Energy Industries Association, IBM, Intel, BP, and National Semiconductor.
 
The U.S. has an opportunity to be the leading developer and exporter of clean solar technologies in the coming years and decades. 
 
This bipartisan bill is designed to advance that goal and I strongly urge my colleagues to support it.


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