Georgia Senators Aim to Light Up U.S. Solar Manufacturing

By Stockton Grunewald
Sep 24 2021 |
Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock tours the Q Cells facility in Dalton, Ga. Photos by Q Cells via Sen. Warnock

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock want OMB to close loopholes and strengthen Buy American for federal solar purchases.  

Back in August, we wrote about the cautionary tale of the United States solar industry. Despite bipartisan initiatives to build a robust domestic solar manufacturing base, American companies and workers faced an unfair fight, as China’s government used practices like massive subsidies, miniscule environmental guidelines, and forced labor practices to dominate the global market.

The U.S. once made 22% of the world’s supply of solar panels. Today, that number stands at 1%.

But solar will also be integral to America’s green push, as the Biden administration is aiming for solar to encompass 45% of U.S. electricity generation by 2050. That means policymakers must take action to rebuild our manufacturing base – or else we will remain dependent on China (and thus, forced labor) for our solar needs.

Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff (D) and the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) are among those working on Capitol Hill to ramp up domestic solar production. The Peach State is home to Q Cells, the largest solar factory in the Western Hemisphere.

The two penned a letter on Sept. 15 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to urge the agency to “to close loopholes in the federal solar procurement process to better support American solar manufacturers.”

Currently, most federal agencies pursue purchasing power agreements (PPAs) to facilitate their solar needs. The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) helps the alphabet soup of government agencies streamline energy assets – and while the recent Buy American executive action from the Biden administration ordered the federal government to purchase solar energy equipment from domestic manufacturers, omit the impact of PPAs, which Ossoff and Warnock note depends on foreign solar equipment to supply U.S. energy needs.

Closing these loopholes “would ensure that the federal government’s procurement of clean energy not only supports our collective goals to tackle the climate crisis, but also supports good-paying American solar manufacturing jobs such as those based in Georgia,” the duo write.

Along with their letter to OMB, the pair of Georgia progressives also joined Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to introduce the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act (SEMA), which would provide lucrative incentives to domestic solar manufacturers.

The measure would provide tax credits to the solar manufacturing industry at every stage of the supply chain, incentivizing domestic production necessary for producing solar energy technologies and creating tens of thousands of American jobs, according to Ossoff and Warnock.

“By creating tax incentives for every step of the solar manufacturing supply chain, we can pave the way for a greener tomorrow while lowering manufacturing costs and creating clean energy jobs,” Warnock said. “Georgia can help tackle the climate crisis head on.”

Ossoff and Warnock have also championed the RAISE the Roof Act, which seeks to bring down solar prices for households.

Public response to the prospective measures is promising, and could bode well for securing SEMA’s passage. According to a poll from Data for Progress, two-thirds of voters either “strongly or somewhat support” the legislation, and there’s near majority approval from both parties and independents. Meanwhile, a whopping 75% expressed support of the RAISE the Roof Act.