By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, May 1 U.S. government support for
solar energy is no different from its support for traditional
energy sources, despite critics' complaints that the renewable
energy source has gotten special incentives, a new
solar-industry backed report found.
Researchers at the University of Tennessee's Baker Center
for Public Policy published an assessment on Tuesday of the
incentives and employment impacts of deploying solar energy in
The solar industry has come under fire by critics after last
September's bankruptcy of solar manufacturer Solyndra, who
argued that the Obama administration has given the industry
unfair financial incentives.
Despite the controversy surrounding clean technology
investment in the U.S., the University of Tennessee report
highlighted that the government provides incentives every major
energy production market, including solar.
The report argued that solar energy has followed the same
trajectory as other energy sources and technologies.
In addition, mature energy sources such as coal and oil
continue to receive subsidies in some form the government, the
report pointed out.
"We find that solar energy is following the same
incentive-driven path as other traditional energy sources before
it, consistent with the government's decision to incentivize
energy production for a variety of policy purposes," the report
Each traditional energy source has been developed with
"significant government engagement," the report said, citing
market control measures for oil and making pipelines available
for natural gas distribution.
It added that like oil, gas and coal, solar energy will need
to go through a 30-year period of innovation and early adoption
before it can "leap" to full market adoption, or reach at least
one percent market share.
Tom Kimbis, vice president of Solar Energy Industries
Association, which commissioned the report, said the
government's 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy,
which will continue until 2016, is the "type of stable
instrument to help us get where we want to go."
Kimbis said the solar industry's goal is to install 10GW of
solar power every year starting in 2015, a goal that the tax
incentive is likely to make possible, he said.
"Solar is not different (from other energy sources) and is
not an anomaly. Those long term instruments are needed in order
to get any energy source up to full maturity," he told Reuters
in an interview.
The report also highlighted the potential of a mature solar
energy market on creating jobs in the U.S. and increasing export
The researchers found that the solar industry can generate
anywhere between 240,000 to 965,000 direct or indirect jobs by
2030. The export of solar technology could add an additional
67,700 jobs, the report estimated.
But Kimbis warned the benefits of subsidizing solar are at
risk of getting lost in the ongoing, highly politicized debate.
"What's missing has been a fair and balanced analysis of
what incentives other energy sources receive," he said.
"It seems solar is being called out because the failure of one