Vice President Joe Biden wows crowd at SPI

Vice President Joe Biden praised the U.S. solar industry in a powerful speech at last week’s Solar Power International trade show in Anaheim, California.

Speaking to a crowd of several thousand at the Anaheim Convention Center on Sept. 16, Biden said since he and President Barack Obama took office and put the solar investment tax credit (ITC) in place from 2008 through 2016, solar power had increased 20-fold, grown jobs 86% to 174,000 and expected to reach 210,000 jobs by the end of 2015.

Click to see Vice President’s speech at SPI 2015

The vice president also announced a $120 million competitive grant program to further support solar energy development and use.

“Just imagine how much more we can do. How many jobs, imagine how many fewer cases of premature death, heart attack, childhood asthma, imagine the net savings to consumers and taxpayers,” Biden exclaimed. “Folks, because of you, we are on the cusp of something huge here.”

The new grant program is aimed at scaling up clean energy in 24 states across the country, targeting greater access to solar energy in rural and low-income neighborhoods and supporting efforts to reduce solar costs.

The United States solar industry continues to grow dramatically, surpassing 20 GW of total operational solar PV capacity during the second quarter of this year. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Q2 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,393 MW of PV last quarter, signaling both annual and quarterly growth.

Last year, the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy and solar represented 40% of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the first half of 2015. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50%, according to the White House.

“It’s within reach,” said Biden, adding that the successful growth of solar energy in the U.S. is a tribute to the marketplace. “This isn’t a government mandate. This is the market working.”

The vice president added, “If we stay at it, we can make it faster and more affordable for Americans to choose cleaner and more affordable energy.”

Biden reiterated his support for the ITC extension and argued against the current $5 billion annual tax credit to the oil industry.

“Anybody having a problem getting oil out of the ground today? They don’t need that tax credit.”

Biden pointed out that half the amount of the oil tax credit would cover the solar tax credit extension.

Biden’s attendance at SPI marked the the first time a sitting vice president delivered remarks at a solar power conference in North America.

"Vice President Biden addressing Solar Power International shows just how far we’ve grown as an industry,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.

Following his speech at SPI, Biden attended the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles.