President Trump and solar: An interview with Christopher Mansour, SEIA

Christopher Mansour: The solar industry obviously had a major victory in 2015 with the five-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), and this is the major federal policy that relates to the solar industry, the ITC itself. That extension takes us out to 2021.

We will be working with our friends on both sides of the aisle to make sure that this extension stays in place. We have been in contact before the election with the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team to make sure that they are aware of the important benefits that solar has given to the economy in terms of jobs created, megawatts installed and billions of dollars invested.

I think that they have a good understanding of where we are with the solar industry in terms of where it is right now. It’s a question of seeing what kinds of policies they want to pursue down the line here.

pv magazine: What are the odds that the ITC will be repealed?

Mansour: It’s hard to prognosticate that, but I don’t think that it is very high. For the most part most Republicans and Democrats, they may not have supported the extension, but they also don’t like changing the rules mid-stream on businesses.

They set this policy in place, and businesses are making investment decisions based on five-year extensions of the ITC, and I think most Republicans and most members of Congress in general are loathe to change the rules on companies as they are making these decisions.

As part of the extension that we were able to get last year, we had significant support among Republicans in the Senate as well as Republicans in the house. We just going to continue to work with our friends on both sides of the aisle to make sure that the ITC stays in place through the 2021 date.

pv magazine: The SunShot initiative enjoyed strong support under President Obama. What do you think will happen to the SunShot Initiative and solar programs at the DOE under a Trump presidency?

Mansour: I think that is the question where a new incoming administration has a lot more discretion in terms of actually setting its budget priorities. And so that is something where we are going to be working with whoever gets confirmed as energy secretary, and their team to really let them know how important that SunShot program has been for the development and continued growth to the industry.

And in terms of its pro-business focus. The focus of the Sunshot initiative is to help the American solar industry and companies to reduce their costs to make them more competitive. That’s a kind of a pro-Capitalist thing that the federal government get involved in.

pv magazine: Does Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trial including spreading myths about the efficacy of solar and wind, does that concern you in terms of the direction of his policies?

Mansour: I think the one thing that he said about solar has been that it is too expensive. That is part of our job has been is to talk with people on his campaign and his transition, to really point out that this is information that he has which may be a little bit out of date. That costs have come down tremendously, and we anticipate that they are going to continue to come down. We are competitive, and we are getting more competitive by the day.

I think that once we have an opportunity to talk with his people and talk with his incoming team a little bit more, and show him that this is a giant job creator for the United States. We are going to go from having 209,000 Americans working in solar from the end of 2019 to 400,000 by the end of 2020. These are good-paying jobs that are attractive to a lot of American workers. I am very confident they will see the advantages of current policy, and where it is helping the solar industry grow.

pv magazine: At what point does the low cost of solar PV make policies such as the ITC and federal support in general irrelevant?

Mansour: As you know, the prices of PV and solar in general has really plummeted over the last decade or more, but we are competing against other technologies whose costs have also come down. Wind’s costs, obviously natural gas prices have been at historical levels.

This is a highly competitive industry where our companies are going head to head against other technologies that have been able to also wring some of their costs out of the costs of installation an production. It’s going to be something that it going to continue.

With the ITC extension we see it resulting in a tripling of the amount of solar that is going to be installed by 2020. We are going to go from 31 GW that we have now to just under 100 GW by 2020, and that is basically with current policy of the ITC extension.