US Energy Secretary Moniz announces $53 million in funding for solar R&D at SPI


U.S. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz has an interesting relationship with the solar industry. He’s considered by many to be an insider, and as someone who also has strong ties to both oil and gas and the solar industry, he is perhaps the perfect representative of U.S. President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy.

On Wednesday at the Solar Power International trade show in Las Vegas, Secretary Moniz unveiled another $53 million for 40 solar research and development (R&D) project through the SunShot Initiative. These will span several sub-programs, targeting reductions in both hardware and non-hardware “soft” costs.

“Cost reduction is very much a part of shaping our clean energy future,” Secretary Moniz told the crowd in the conference hall. “We have to work together to continue to grow solar at a brisk pace."

This includes more than $14 million in grants to 10 research institutions, another $14 million to 20 small businesses through the latest round of the SunShot incubator program, and $24 million to 10 solar manufacturers in support of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative.

Moniz spoke of the need for “robust domestic manufacturing” at the conference, however despite large announcements by SolarCity and other companies, large-scale PV manufacturing continues to elude the United States.

As explored in a recent article in the October print edition of pv magazine, the largest U.S. PV makers manufacture mostly in Malaysia and other locations in Southeast Asia. Malaysia offers a 10-year tax exemption for high-technology companies, whereas the U.S. lacks a coherent set of policies to support manufacturing.

Additionally, U.S. Secretary Moniz told the audience to expect a new round of DOE loan guarantees in 2015. However, he did not mention which technologies would be supported, and the most recent loan guarantees have gone to nuclear projects.