A group of 231 mayors from across the country sent a letter to Congress supporting the Renewable Energy Extension Act, a five-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
If the tax credit extension is passed, it could create 113,000 jobs and $87 billion in economic investment by 2030, according to an analysis by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie's power & renewables arm. The ITC, which is supposed to start slowing down at the end of the year, has created over 200,000 jobs and triggered $140 billion in private sector investment, SEIA said.
The bipartisan group of mayors are from large cities like Philadelphia and mid-size cities like Wichita, KS and Bozeman, MT. SEIA noted that of the signatories, more than 60 are represented by Republicans in Congress.
The bipartisan support for solar energy could be credited to its effectiveness for producing jobs. There are over 2 million solar installations across the country, and the position of "solar installer" has been dubbed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as one of the quickest growing jobs.
Climate change is also becoming a less partisan issue as lawmakers and voters from both parties see its effects, SEIA Vice President of Public Affairs Dan Whitten told Smart Cities Dive.
"The ITC has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, added more than $140 billion in private sector spending to our economy, and slashed harmful emissions. Those are things that everyone can get behind, and part of the reason we have nine Republican co-sponsors on the House bill," he said.
Public support for solar has also never been higher and nearly 90% of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support solar, he said.
Wichita, KS Mayor Jeff Longwell is one such mayor who signed the letter and is a supporter of solar energy despite not supporting the 2017 Paris climate agreement. He recently rallied the community behind a new solar energy project powering an area high school and wants to duplicate the initiative at other high schools.
"A city of 400,000 doesn't have places for wind turbines, but we can nearly line every street with solar panels," he told Smart Cities Dive in a previous interview. "Solar energy is something that we should continue to rally around and encourage in our city."
Resilient infrastructure has also received increasing bipartisan support in the wake of more frequent and extreme natural disasters. But despite the growing bipartisan support at the local level for various green and resilient initiatives, city leaders like Durham, NC Mayor Steve Schewel and Tucson, AZ mayoral candidate Regina Romero have said they can't achieve their ambitious climate goals without federal leadership.
Extending the ITC for an additional 10 years, however, would produce an additional 82 gigawatts of solar deployments by 2030, helping cities and states come much closer to meeting their climate targets, Whitten said.