Frustrated with the pace of U.S. manufacturing of clean energy technology, President Joe Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic manufacturing of solar panels and other clean energy technology.
The Defense Production Act of 1950 was first enacted on September 8, 1950, in response to the beginning of the Korean War as part of a broad civil defense and war mobilization effort. Set to expire in 2025, the DPA has been reauthorized over 50 times since 1950. President Biden has already invoked the DPA three times this year, using it to boost the production of electric vehicle battery materials and address a shortage of baby formula. Essentially, invoking the DPA to address power shortages implies that relying on foreign nations for clean energy supplies constitutes a national security risk.
President Biden’s executive action provides the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with the authority to utilize the DPA to accelerate domestic production of five key energy technologies: solar; transformers and electric grid components; heat pumps; insulation; and electrolyzers, fuel cells, and platinum group metals.
However, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey sharply criticized the move. “Once again, @POTUS is abusing the Defense Production Act to advance his global warming agenda by using taxpayer dollars to build solar panels,” he tweeted. “If the administration keeps misusing the DPA for non-defense purposes, Congress must curtail it.”
In a separate action heralded as a victory for solar advocates, Biden also issued a preemptive, two-year waiver on solar tariffs that could emerge from an ongoing Commerce Department probe.
“Pausing tariffs will bring in much-needed solar panels quickly, it’s also vital for the U.S. to ramp up domestic manufacturing with strong labor practices so we don’t support slave-labor manufacturing abroad,” said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program.
Several states have warned of possible energy supply shortfalls during summer’s peak demand periods. While using the DPA to shorten lead times for supplies of solar energy components is a much-needed step to ensure resilience and reliability, the President’s executive action likely won’t solve the problems facing America’s various power grids this summer.
With blackouts posing an imminent threat to American families and businesses, it makes sense for the Biden administration to use the DPA to invest in domestic energy production. However, why not also take action to spur domestic nuclear energy or natural gas? Such action would no doubt be met with sharp criticism from environmental advocates, but the reality is that keeping the lights on will demand an all-of-the-above approach.
The U.S. needs common-sense energy policies that utilize affordable and available resources to ensure system resilience and reliability. As the Administration seeks to accelerate domestic manufacturing of clean energy, keep power affordable for customers, and strengthen national security through the invocation of the DPA, President Biden should consider all possible options.