I am signing today H.R. 12874, the Solar Photovoltaic Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1978, a bill that authorizes an aggressive program of research, development, and demonstration of solar photovoltaic energy technologies.
The bill's long-term goal is to make electricity from photovoltaic systems economically competitive with electricity from conventional sources. I share that goal, and in my amended budget for fiscal year 1979 I asked the Congress for $105 million for photovoltaics research.
However, this bill also establishes specific numerical objectives for the Solar Photovoltaic Research, Development, and Demonstration program. These specific objectives are very optimistic. Technical and economic obstacles could make it difficult to meet these goals without massive Federal investments, or even with such investment. The Congress recognized that these objectives may be unrealistic and specifically provided that the Secretary should request changes in the goals if obstacles arise. Congress also recognized the risks involved in premature commercialization of solar photovoltaic technologies. It is still too early to concentrate on commercialization of photovoltaics. Photovoltaic systems hold great promise, but in the short run we must emphasize research and development, including fundamental work on the physical properties of these systems, so that this promise can be realized.
Therefore, I will not propose to the Congress that a broad Federal solar photovoltaic purchase program tied to the specific goals of this act be undertaken soon. Rather, consistent with congressional intent, we will focus on research and development that will accelerate cost reductions. We will also continue, where appropriate, small, carefully targeted photovoltaic purchases to meet technical objectives. This approach should lay a firm foundation for the advancement of solar power from photovoltaics in the future.
NOTE.: As enacted, H.R. 12874 is Public Law 95-590, approved November 4.
The statement was released on November 6.