Interview: Rhone Resch, SEIA

Reginald Tucker

Part 3. Reg Tucker concludes his conversation with Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Renewable Energy Focus magazine recently caught up with Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry in the United States.

Representing an industry of more than 5,600 companies and 119,000 employees, Resch is the architect of the Association's strategic priorities designed to achieve a 10 GW annual market in the US by 2015, including all Federal and state advocacy on behalf of the industry. In the last 8 years as the President of SEIA, he helped create the 30% investment tax credit, the 1603 Treasury Program, and more than 18 other provisions that have helped grow the industry from 52 MW/year market in 2004 to 3,300 MW in 2012.

See part 1 of the interview here, and part 2 here.

REF: On manufacturing there has been lots of negative news over the past few years with numerous bankruptcies, etc., not to mention the hype surrounding Solyndra. Just recently GE announced that it has backed away from its First Solar deal. What does this say about the current solar market in the U.S., and where does the industry go from here?

RR: In every industry – especially young, growth industries – there are going to be rocky periods and shakeouts, including bankruptcies, consolidations and acquisitions. But we will emerge as a stronger, more competitive industry in the end. I'm still very bullish on solar's future.

From the Space Station, to cutting-edge military uses, to over-the-counter products, solar continues to innovate, improve and grow. And through our efforts, we're not only helping the U.S. economy to grow, but we're also helping our environment. It's estimated that the 9.37 GW of solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. so far this year will displace 9,232,122 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. This is equivalent to: displacing the emissions produced from burning nearly 40,000 railcars’ worth of coal; removing 1.9 million cars from the road; displacing the emissions produced from burning the gasoline contained in 121,764 tanker trucks; or replacing almost 3 coal-fired power plants with clean solar energy.

These are all great “social” reasons to switch to solar. But the most important thing that will continue to drive widespread solar adoption in the United States is cost. We need to continue to focus on module price declines. Since the beginning of 2011, module prices have dropped by more than 60 percent, making solar more affordable than ever for Americans.

REF: Finally, what is SEIA's take on China and the anti-dumping saga. How do you see this playing out?

RR: This long, drawn-out issue needs to get resolved soon. SEIA is continuing to work with Governments and industry representatives to develop a mutually satisfactory resolution of outstanding trade disputes – a resolution which addresses global competitiveness issues, while allowing for the continued growth of solar markets in the U.S. and around the world.

We also need to take into account what impact any settlement might have on consumers and the U.S. economy. This will require a very delicate balance, but I remain convinced that a fair settlement is still possible – and within reach.

Reginald Tucker, U.S. editor Renewable Energy Focus was talking to Rhone Resch. A self-proclaimed political junkie, Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, has more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sector, working on clean energy development and climate change issues. In addition to serving as the vice president for the National Gas Supply Association, Resch also served as program manager at the EPA's Climate Protection Division during the Clinton administration. Resch holds an M.P.A. in management from Syracuse University's Maxwell School, a Master of Environmental Engineering from SUNY Syracuse, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Lisa and two children in a solar-powered house that provides 93% of their electricity.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling