SAN DIEGO – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise appearance at the solar industry’s annual confab Monday night, warning not to use the financial crisis as an excuse to abandon the fight against global warming.
“We should not give in to those who say environmental goals should take a back seat until the economy improves,” said Schwarzenegger, kicking off the Solar Power International conference. “That’s short-sighted thinking. Tough economic times mean we need more solar, more green jobs.”
The governator’s championing of solar energy through California’s million solar roofs initiative and its landmark global warming law has made Schwarzenegger something of a patron saint of the solar industry, and the audience was on its feet cheering the perma-tanned politician.
The solar power conference is a barometer of the industry’s growth. When Schwarzenegger last appeared at the conference in 2006, 6,000 attendees crammed the San Jose Convention center. This week an estimated 20,000 people have descended upon San Diego for the event. (For techies, think of it as the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld rolled into one.)
The crowd was in a festive mood. Solar stocks were up dramatically Monday with the bounce back on Wall Street – First Solar (FSLR) spiked nearly 23% and Suntech (STP) rose 21% as was SunPower (SPWRA). And ten days ago Congress slipped into the financial bailout package an eight-year extension of a crucial 30% solar investment tax credit, lifted a $2,000 tax credit limit for homeowners who install solar arrays and allowed utilities to claim the investment tax credit for solar installations. “Imagine it took a financial rescue plan to get a tax credit for solar,” Schwarzenegger remarked.
The Republican governor used the occasion to champion California, as he is his wont, giving kudos to Southern California Edison (EIX) for the utility’s plans to install 250-megawatts’ worth of solar panels on warehouse roofs. “I can envision going up in a helicopter and up and down California and see no more warehouses without solar panels.”
“Solar is the future, it cannot be stopped,” he added.