Tom Kimbis leads the development of strategy to promote solar energy across the U.S. As Vice President of Executive Affairs, he oversees the departments of Executive Affairs and Research. He also provides legal services to SEIA as General Counsel. Tom has been working in renewable energy since 2000, when he began supporting research, analysis, legislative, and planning efforts across all energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
In 2005, he created the Market Transformation effort within the Solar Energy Technologies Program (SETP) at DOE to help technologies cross the chasm from R&D to commercialization. Tom served as Director of Market Transformation through 2009, when he began service as Acting Program Manager, managing the entire $170 million solar energy program of the United States. While at DOE, Tom was a founder of the Solar America Initiative, a billion-dollar effort to accelerate solar commercialization. He led the creation of the Solar America Cities program, a DOE partnership with U.S. cities to develop innovative methods for the adoption of solar energy technologies.
The Solar Energy Boom
…we are on track this year to install about nine gigawatts of solar energy and five, ten years ago we didn’t even install one tenth of one gigawatt in the U.S. We’re talking about growing 100-fold in the course of ten years. So we’re doing a good job. We’ve got a long way to go, but we are the fastest growing energy industry in the U.S. and we are second only to natural gas in terms of new energy generation in the United States.
Solar’s Benefits Beyond Power
Solar is an outstanding resource in the United States both because of what it does provide, which is clean, reliable, renewable energy, but also what it avoids, which is displacing, depending on where you are in the country, coal or other fossil fuels, or nuclear energy…You also have benefits in the job arena from solar…there are a lot of jobs that come out of solar that are impossible to be outsourced.
Policy is as Vital as Technology
I’ve seen efficiencies for solar increase over time, and for many years efficiency was talked about as the Holy Grail…what we need right now is not for panels to double their efficiency; what we really need is to have access to cheaper capital, and to eliminate some of the barriers that exist in states and jurisdictions across the country that make it difficult for people to choose solar.
Pushing the Boundaries of Infrastructure
We need to look at the electric grid and the transportation modes in a way that propels us to continue to be the leading nation for decades to come. That requires investment, and it also requires creativity. Thankfully, we do have a long track record of entrepreneurial success and innovation in America. I’m very hopeful that we’ll see innovation come from the private sector in electric vehicles, in storage technologies, and other areas that can aid our infrastructure…