Strengthening the Industry on Multiple Fronts
By Bettina Weiss, vice president, SEMI PV Group
May 18, 2012
Whether in good times or bad, advocacy continues to be important. I just returned from a full day of lobbying meetings in Washington DC last week, along with several of our members, as part of our Washington Forum 2012.
We met with the Department of Energy and several House and Senate offices to
emphasize the importance of continuing with short-term (3-5 years) incentives in order to create a sustainable PV industry in the U.S. There is a strong sentiment among member companies about maintaining and strengthening the equipment and materials supply chain, along with R&D - since cell and module manufacturing has already largely shifted to Asia. Keeping the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and reinstating the (expired) 1603 Grant in Lieu of Tax Credits were among the primary "asks" to legislators on Capitol Hill. In addition, we advocated for more consistent incentives to allow businesses to plan accordingly. The R&D tax credit, for example, is essential, but its annual (and cumbersome) renewal process makes it difficult for companies to forecast. What is important to note, is that globally, any decline in incentives impacts the entire manufacturing value chain - from silicon/starting materials to process chemicals/gases to equipment.
Because most incentives like tax credits, feed-in tariffs and other mechanisms have been largely technology agnostic and customers may choose a c-Si or a thin film module depending on geographies, applications and price points, we encourage legislators everywhere to recognize the need for consistency in the availability of supporting mechanisms. (Spain is a good example of what can happen when subsidies disappear literally overnight, pulling the rug from underneath a promising industry.) But there is also another angle of support: SEMI has a long standing history in facilitating and supporting technology roadmap efforts and standardization activities globally. The ITRPV (International Technology Roadmap for PV) is one example of collaborative industry efforts in support for a sustainable PV industry. And, PV manufacturing standards have been a major part of SEMI's International Standards Program since 2007 and now includes over 30 PV specific published standards. By working together on shared challenges to address the overarching mandate to reduce manufacturing cost, and to produce better, more efficient, more reliable PV systems, the manufacturing supply chain has developed its own support system. This system allows the industry to put in place consensus-based best practices and solutions for shared challenges while allowing stakeholders to focus on innovation and product differentiation.
This conversation continues in just 8 weeks at the 3rd annual SEMI North American PV Fab Managers Forum, during Intersolar North America, where the current state of the U.S. photovoltaic market will be examined from a variety of angles. The Forum will encompass presentations and perspectives from the entire value chain, addressing issues like market consolidation, policy shifts, financing challenges, and how our member companies and their customers cope with these new realities. Dr. Nasreen Chopra, AltaDevices will present "PV Manufacturing in the U.S. - An assessment" based on The SEMI North American PV Advisory Committee white paper about PV manufacturing in the U.S. For a full description of the session view the program detail.
In addition, SEMI is organizing a robust suite of technical sessions in our PV Production and Technology Hall (Moscone North Hall) during the three days of the exposition - free content delivered by industry leaders on the show floor. Topics include technology roadmaps and standards, module quality assurance, green manufacturing, thin film manufacturing challenges and latest PV R&D developments.
These complimentary presentations delivered on the exhibit floor at the PV Production and Technology Hall Stage will focus on the real, critical issues and current challenges for both today's PV manufacturing plants and tomorrow's technology advancements. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to engage with fellow stakeholders and support our global solar industry.
SEMI PV Group, The Grid - May 2012