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Feb. 5, 2023

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Vancouver’s solar power sector seeing growth

Boosters gather to hear results of report on increase in renewable energy use

By , Columbian Port & Economy Reporter
Published:

Boosters of solar power on Thursday unveiled a new report about the increase in use of that renewable energy as part of a larger effort to support the federal government’s push to slash carbon pollution in the face of climate change. Thursday’s event also put the spotlight on Vancouver’s growing private solar sector, as backers of solar power in Washington gathered to discuss the issue at the facilities of two local companies: Brimma Solar and SunModo.

The report, “Lighting the Way,” authored by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, documents the decline in the cost of solar energy, the increase in its capacity in the U.S. and policies adopted by states to encourage its use.

The report shows that per capita solar power capacity grew 56 percent in Washington since 2013, putting the state 15th in the country for solar power capacity per person added since that time. However, the state in 2014 ranked No. 25 for total solar capacity and for solar capacity per capita.

“We need to go bigger,” Bruce Speight, executive director of WashPIRG and a representative of Environment Washington, said Thursday after he presented the report.

Speight was joined by others including: Rick Campfield, CEO of SunModo, a producer of mounting hardware for solar systems; John Harley, vice president of production for Brimma Solar, which specializes primarily in residential solar installations; state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver; and Dena Horton, Southwest Washington outreach director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Edmonds.

Campfield said a confluence of forces — federal and state government incentives, the decreasing cost of technology and consumers who “want to leave something behind, a better planet” — are making solar power come on strong. He and Harley both said it’s important to maintain those government incentives, which include a federal tax credit for solar energy, and a state sales tax exemption and production incentive.

“We go where the state incentives are,” Harley said.

‘Reduction targets’

The release of the “Lighting the Way” report comes as the Obama administration made public last month its Clean Power Plan. That plan uses state-by-state targets to cut heat-trapping emissions 32 percent by 2030 from levels recorded in 2005.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the plan will save about $45 billion a year by both reducing energy use and cutting health costs for asthma, lung cancer and other illnesses triggered by air pollution, according to a report by U.S. News & World Report. The EPA also says the plan will cut roughly $85 a year from the average American’s utility bill.

However, backers of fossil fuels and some utilities have blasted the measure. As reported by U.S. News & World Report, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican representing the coal-heavy state of Kentucky, has urged state leaders to reject the plan, arguing it will undermine reliability and increase electricity rates.

In a news release issued Thursday by Environment Washington, the group said its research shows that “solar power could easily meet about half the pollution-reduction targets” required by the Obama administration’s plan.

In 2014, Hawaii was the top state for cumulative solar electricity capacity per capita (312 watts per resident), according to the “Lighting the Way” report. By another measurement — total solar electricity capacity — California “led the nation with nearly 10 gigawatts,” the report said.

Pro-solar policies adopted by most or many of the leading states include minimum renewable energy requirements for utilities, according to the report, and net metering, in which solar energy system owners are credited for the electricity they add to the grid.

By way of context, the sources of electricity generation in the U.S. in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, were: coal (39 percent), natural gas (27 percent), nuclear (19 percent) and renewable (13 percent).

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Columbian Port & Economy Reporter