Gorbachev Joins the Call for Green Stimulus

On March 30, I joined President Gorbachev in San Antonio, Texas to call upon the leaders of the G20 nations and the leaders of the global energy sector to help make significant investment in solar energy immediately as one critical way to solving our current economic and environmental crises. We also unveiled Global Green's new Solar Report Card -- the first of its kind--which analyzes 16 countries' (and the state of California's) investments in solar energy.

President Gorbachev, the founder of Green Cross International (Global Green USA is the American affiliate) -- who the next day addressed the 33rd NPRA International Petrochemical Conference with a similar message -- said, "It's not just a matter of rescuing the world's economy -- there is more at stake. We must not expect the outcome of this crisis will be the replicating of the same old model of the economy we had for 50 years. If we base the efforts for a healthy economy on this effort to reduce hydrocarbons, this would lay the groundwork for a sustainable economy and sustainable growth in the future," he said. "The environment has its own laws that cannot be violated. ... If we do, then we the world will be losers."

Indeed, Solar is one of the key strategic investments that can help combat energy poverty, create economic growth and help fight climate change. We need governments to urgently shift subsidies for oil, gas and coal - estimated at $300 billion USD annually - toward solar and renewable technologies to create jobs, improve the lives of those in need, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The G-20 must make increased long-term commitments to solar domestically and via foreign aid for developing nations, enabling the private sector to further reduce costs via economies of scale and technological advancements.

Highlights of the Solar Report Card

The Global Solar Report Card by Green Cross International and its American affiliate, Global Green USA outlines successes and failures in 16 countries' (and the state of California's) efforts in designing promising policy frameworks for sustained solar development. It finds all countries still in the early phases of solar deployment, even Germany, which is currently setting the pace. The ranking is based on a 100-point system that allocates a maximum of 30 points to the amount of solar installed so far, and the remaining 70 points to drivers for future growth (56 points for financial incentives, 12 points for regulatory incentives and 2 points for educational and advocacy efforts).

The following are some of the highlights of the analysis:

* Germany (A-), which scored highest being the country with most PV installed and having put in place promising 'drivers for future growth', still finishes with only 70 out of a 100 possible points. The state of California (B), also scored well in 2nd place, having implemented a 10-year $3 billion rebate program for solar.

* Spain (C+), which saw tremendous growth since 2007, overtook the US in 2008 as the 3rd country with the most installed PV. A period of policy uncertainty followed by a decision to cap the market for 2009 negatively affected Spain's grade. However, based on Spain's installed capacity for 2008, Spain would score a B.

* The United States (C+), with the extension of its only federal-level financial support for solar, assured a much needed long term commitment to the sector. Additional support has since been allocated in the context of the stimulus package. Still, much more could be done in a country with such solar, financial and technological resources.

* Countries such as Italy (C+), France (C+) and Greece (C-) fare moderately because of still young markets, but all earn points for putting in place substantial drivers for growth. Recent efforts focused on lifting bureaucratic hurdles, which have in all 3 cases, acted as significant barriers to market take up. Solar markets are expected to grow in these countries moving forward.

* With recent policy changes, Australia (C) missed an opportunity to put in place a considered federal-level policy to capitalize on tremendous solar resources and spur significant investment in the country's solar sector. Similarly to the US, the country could do much more to reach its solar potential.

* Japan (C), once the leading country in terms of both production and installed capacity, scored low after ending its flagship program in 2005. Japan however, hoping to regain its solar panel makers' competitive edge in the world market, recently put in place the first step of a new residential PV program.

* China (D-), which seems committed to developing a clean energy infrastructure, has set ambitious targets and put in place a comprehensive renewable energy policy framework. However, the country scores poorly here because up until March 23rd, the specifics for solar PV were unclear. Indeed, China just released details for a PV rebate program. The country stands to gain a lot from supporting the deployment of solar, given its tremendous energy needs, high insulation and its position as one of the three largest PV producers in the world.

* Finally, countries that rate poorly in the study are Russia (F) and Poland (F), with no solar markets and no mechanisms to capitalize on their solar potential, and to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom (D-) with a very small market and no significant support for solar growth at this time. While the UK is in the process of designing a solar support program, impact will not be seen until the end of 2010.

Investing in solar energy as a strategic, focused opportunity to leverage reductions in GHGs, creating new green jobs, and improving the economy. We can also reduce energy poverty - over 2 billion in the world do not have access to modern energy services - via off the grid solar distributed power for lights and other needs, replacing what is frequently more expensive and fraught with health and safety concerns from using kerosene or candles.

Gorbachev concluded our press event by saying: "The G-20 must act - together we must invest in the green economy, it is the only way forward."