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Solar High-Impact National Energy Project

The Solar High-Impact National Energy (SHINE) Project: A Call to Action for U.S. Energy Security and Independence

The following is an excerpt from The SHINE Project. To read the full report, please download the PDF file by clicking on the link to the left.

This report describes a clear and compelling pathway to an energy future that creates energy and economic security for America. It generates thousands of American jobs in every state and restores U.S. leadership in global energy markets. It is a plan that harnesses market forces, nudged by a small initial government investment, to produce staggering economic, environmental, and social returns. It is revenue-neutral for taxpayers and ratepayers, and produces economic returns that cover the cost of the program several times over.

In simplest terms, this report explores the following question: What would an American "man on the moon" effort look like that could rapidly and dramatically transform solar energy into a truly cost-competitive, job-creating source of electricity?

We've outlined such a vision, which we've called the Solar High-Impact National Energy (SHINE) Project. It calls for an ambitious and aggressive, three-pronged initiative to make solar both cost-competitive and a significant part of America's energy mix within 10 years. It emphasizes the positive benefits American-made solar can have on energy security, U.S. business growth, the creation of thousands of jobs across the nation, environmental and public health, and reducing stress on America's electricity grid.

With business as usual, we get none of this. In fact, we are likely to lose yet another American industry, and all the jobs that go with it, to Europe and Asia.

In short, America stands at an energy crossroads, an historic decision-making moment that could shape the nation's competitiveness and security. America's energy crossroads present two divergent pathways for renewable energy in general, and solar in particular. One is business-as-usual, in which solar remains a high-cost, niche technology, produced mainly overseas by Japanese and European companies, continuing its impressive growth rate, but never producing more than a tiny percentage of America's energy needs.

The alternative pathway forged by SHINE presents a far brighter future, producing up to 20 times more clean, renewable energy -- and up to 20 times more American jobs -- than the business-as-usual case. It harnesses the impressive track record of U.S. industry in ramping up promising technologies to bring down costs and improve performance, while helping to ensure America's security by significantly increasing the amount of pollution-free, home-grown energy produced by the sun.

Specifically, SHINE calls for:

  • SUNUP: a federal block-grant program, providing matching funds to states to implement innovative and cost-effective solar installation programs;
  • U.S. RISE: an aggressive, long-term federal commitment to purchase solar systems for government facilities and operations; and
  • ASAP: a high-stakes/high-reward competition to develop and deploy new solar technologies and systems that could dramatically accelerate the reduction in solar's costs over the next decade.

SHINE is centered on the uniquely American way of solving problems: by stimulating markets -- in this case, to the point where solar can take off and bring jobs, prosperity and security to America through private-sector initiative. It can address environmental problems such as climate change without resorting to regulations and treaties.

As a program that calls forth the power of markets, SHINE focuses on lowering the price of solar so that it can compete in every energy market and make a major contribution to energy security and independence -- on rooftops for homeowners and businesses, in neighborhood and regional installations for utilities, and by providing low-cost energy for the coming generation of hydrogen fuel cells and high-efficiency batteries.

Combined, SHINE's three programs reduce the price of solar far faster than would take place under business as usual, thereby creating mass markets for solar far sooner than they would otherwise develop. By 2025, SHINE would reduce prices to as low as 80 cents per installed watt, compared to about $2.71 for the business-as-usual case -- a dramatic difference that would make solar cost-competitive with -- perhaps cheaper than -- fossil fuels and other more polluting energy sources.

And, along the way, SHINE would ensure America's participation in what is expected to be one of the fast-growing global industries of the next decade and beyond. It would reverse the loss of high-paying jobs already taking place in the U.S. renewable energy sector, which has seen companies and jobs depart American shores for Japan, Korea, China, Germany, and elsewhere. And by reclaiming leadership in this sector, the United States would enjoy the creation of up to 500,000 good-paying U.S. jobs -- jobs that cannot be exported overseas because they involve local installation and maintenance of solar systems on rooftops and in neighborhoods in every community.

Download the full report