Solar Energy's Uneasy Transition

March 26, 1982

Report Outline
Reversal of Solar Policy
State of the Technology
Outlook for Industry's Survival
Special Focus

Reversal of Solar Policy

Ending a Decade of Key Federal Support

Shocked by the energy crisis and awakened to environmental concerns, this nation began about a decade ago to rediscover such ancient sources of energy as sun, wind and water. Congress for the first time in 1973 made money available for the development of solar energy, through the National Science Foundation. These funds grew steadily, peaking at $500 million in President Carter's budget for fiscal year 1981.

Carter made solar research and development an important part of his energy program, placing it in the new Department of Energy. The government arranged in 1977 to establish the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) near Golden, Colo., and participated in “Sun Day,” May 3, 1978, to heighten public awareness of solar energy's potential as a national resource. Then in 1979 Carter committed the United States to a goal of meeting 20 percent of its energy needs with solar and other renewable resources by the year 2000.

Ronald Reagan, his successor, wasted no time in reversing those priorities. His administration instead emphasized petroleum and nuclear power. In his first year as president, Reagan cut solar energy funding in about half and he proposes further cuts in his new budget (see box, p. 236). This turnabout in policy has left the fledgling solar industry unsure, despite rapid technical advances, whether it can survive in the marketplace.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Alternative Energy
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Feb. 25, 2005  Alternative Fuels
Nov. 07, 1997  Renewable Energy
Jul. 09, 1993  Electric Cars
Jul. 10, 1992  Alternative Energy
Mar. 26, 1982  Solar Energy's Uneasy Transition
Nov. 20, 1981  Wind and Water: Expanding Energy Technologies
Aug. 31, 1979  Synthetic Fuels
Nov. 12, 1976  Solar Energy
Mar. 14, 1973  New Energy Sources
Aug. 14, 1968  Steam and Electric Autos
Jan. 22, 1929  Federal Water Power Policy
Oct. 08, 1928  Status of the Muscle Shoals Project
Jan. 26, 1927  The Colorado River Problem
Energy and the Environment
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels