Remarks by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen at Suniva in Norcross, Georgia

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Matt, for the introduction. I’m glad to be in Georgia today to visit Suniva. 

I’d like to begin with the company’s story. Suniva opened its doors seventeen years ago, as one of the very first solar cell manufacturers in North America. Over the next decade, it drew on American tech and talent to grow and gain a toehold in a highly competitive market. But a flood of solar imports at artificially low prices due to heavy foreign government subsidies made it too hard to compete, and Suniva filed for bankruptcy in 2017. It wasn’t alone. Before this Administration, solar companies across the United States were struggling. Between 2016 and 2020, nearly 20 percent of solar manufacturing jobs were lost. 

Now, though there remain significant challenges, Inflation Reduction Act tax credits are helping change the game. Suniva plans to restart manufacturing this spring, having secured over $100 million in financing. And just today, Suniva announced that it has concluded a three-year sourcing contract that will lead to the first crystalline solar modules with U.S.-made solar cells.

What’s happening here is just one example of what I want to focus on today: how President Biden’s economic agenda, including the Inflation Reduction Act, is lowering energy costs for American consumers and powering growth in strategic industries, bolstering our country’s economic security and creating economic opportunity as we accelerate toward our climate goals. I’ll also highlight the obstacles that we’ll have to navigate.

I. President Biden’s Economic Agenda

Let me step back. Since the start of this Administration, President Biden and I have focused on creating opportunity for the middle class in America. We believe that our country’s growth isn’t meaningful if it doesn’t improve the lives of middle-class Americans, including those without college degrees and in places that historically haven’t attracted the investment they deserve. And we believe middle-class Americans will continue to lead our country’s economic future. As President Biden said in the State of the Union, when the middle class does well, “we all do well.” 

We started with the American Rescue Plan, which helped drive a recovery that was both historically fast and fair. Today, GDP growth is strong, inflation has come down significantly, and the labor market is remarkably healthy. Of course, the President and I recognize that the costs of key household expenses like energy and health care are still too high, so we remain committed to taking additional action to bring them down. This is our top economic priority. 

We’re also focused on driving growth and opportunity for the medium- and long-term. Our strategy is to expand the economy’s capacity to produce and create good jobs, including through strengthening high-growth industries. This strategy has shaped a trifecta of historic legislation: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s the IRA—and its impact on economic security and opportunity—that I’ll turn to now.

II. The Inflation Reduction Act and Household Energy Costs

Energy costs pose challenges for American families. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global oil prices skyrocketed, putting significant strain on pocketbooks. The Administration released 180 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and implemented a price cap on Russian oil. Record domestic oil and natural gas production also helped address our immediate needs. We navigated the short-term crisis, but it was a powerful reminder that relying on oil and gas can be expensive and unpredictable. The burden from unexpected costs can be even greater for lower-income and middle-class families, for whom energy accounts for a larger share of their monthly budgets. 

Now, our Administration’s tax credits are helping address these costs for the long-term. The law we passed makes it cheaper for families to install solar on their rooftops. It saves them money on the front end and then on household energy payments for years to come. You can use credits when putting batteries in your garage to store the energy the panels produce. You can use them when installing a heat pump, or energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation, and other improvements. And there are credits for home energy audits too—to help you determine where you’ll see the highest rate of return on those kinds of investments. Clean energy and energy-efficiency investments don’t just cut energy costs; they reduce month-to-month fluctuations in price, bringing energy security to American households.

And as the physical and economic costs of climate change continue to mount each day, at home in the U.S. and around the world, reaching a clean-energy future only becomes more and more urgent. As families install rooftop solar or use other credits to purchase electric vehicles, we also move our country, household by household, toward this future. And because it’s now cheaper to produce clean energy, production will increase and costs will drop over time, shrinking utility bills even more for American consumers. 

Our Administration’s work to lower costs doesn’t end with energy. We’re pursuing wide-ranging efforts to give families more breathing room. The President’s Budget proposes cutting taxes for middle- and low-income Americans. And we’re especially focused on health care costs. The IRA extended the American Rescue Plan’s low premiums, capped the cost of insulin at $35 for Medicare beneficiaries, and allows Medicare to negotiate prices for key prescription drugs. The President plans to do even more—for example, calling on Congress to cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for Americans with private insurance. 

III. The Inflation Reduction Act and Private Sector Investments 

Alongside tax credits for households, the Inflation Reduction Act provides tax credits for producing and investing in clean energy. These credits change the economics of clean energy investment across the United States—making it more profitable and more predictable to build factories here at home. Thanks to the IRA, investing in clean energy is a good value proposition—today, and for the future. 

As we see with Suniva, the private sector is responding. Companies have announced over $675 billion in clean energy and manufacturing investments since the start of this Administration. And companies aren’t just investing; they’re innovating to stay ahead in this highly competitive global market. 

Investments are already noticeably impacting energy production. In 2023, more than half of new generation capacity added to the U.S. grid came from solar. This is the first time in 80 years that renewable energy comprised the majority of new capacity. It means greater energy security and economic security. And it’s a huge step forward on the path to achieving our climate goals.

As companies invest across the United States, they’re also fostering economic opportunity. The IRA provides additional tax credits to incentivize companies to pay prevailing wages, use registered apprentices, and locate projects in low-income communities or energy communities—places that have traditionally relied on industries like coal. Other parts of the Biden Administration’s economic agenda, such as investments in workforce development enabled by the American Rescue Plan, are helping build pathways to these good opportunities. Last month, Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and Senator Ossoff were in Cobb County, Georgia to see a new ARP-funded workforce development center. These programs train workers for the jobs of the future like those created by the CHIPS and Science Act and the IRA.

As a result, the growth we’re seeing in clean-energy technologies is happening across the country in places that haven’t previously had much opportunity. Treasury analysis has shown that the vast majority of announced clean-energy investments since the IRA was passed have been in counties where college graduation rates and median incomes are below the national averages. And greater amounts are being announced in energy communities, where opportunity has dwindled in recent decades.

I’ve traveled to see these investments firsthand. This fall, I was in North Carolina, where Livent has expanded its U.S. lithium hydroxide manufacturing capacity by 50 percent, citing the IRA as a key driver of its investments. Earlier this month, I traveled to Kentucky to see an Advanced Nano Products facility that will be producing parts for EV batteries. This is part of the EV battery belt emerging across the Midwest and South, thanks to IRA incentives and state and local leadership. These investments mean new well-paying jobs, including as many as 5,000 at what will be one of the largest EV battery manufacturing facilities in the world in Glendale, Kentucky. 

IV. Challenges 

I’m optimistic about the progress we’ve made in spurring growth. But the Biden Administration also recognizes that these investments are new. It will take effort, ingenuity, and time for them to reach their full potential. We’re also keeping our eye on pressures abroad that pose risks not only to America but also to the global economy. President Biden is committed to doing what we can to protect our industries from unfair competition.

In particular, I am concerned about global spillovers from the excess capacity that we are seeing in China. In the past, in industries like steel and aluminum, Chinese government support led to substantial overinvestment and excess capacity that Chinese firms looked to export abroad at depressed prices. This maintained production and employment in China but forced industry in the rest of the world to contract. Now, we see excess capacity building in “new” industries like solar, EVs, and lithium-ion batteries.

China’s overcapacity distorts global prices and production patterns and hurts American firms and workers, as well as firms and workers around the world. Challenges for individual firms can lead to concentrated supply chains, negatively impacting global economic resilience.  These are concerns that I increasingly hear from government counterparts in industrialized countries and emerging markets, as well as from the business community globally. 

It is important to the President and me that American firms and workers can compete on a level playing field. We have raised overcapacity in previous discussions with China and I plan to make it a key issue in discussions during my next trip there. I will convey my belief that excess capacity poses risks not only to American workers and firms and to the global economy, but also to productivity and growth in the Chinese economy, as China itself acknowledged in its National People’s Congress this month. And I will press my Chinese counterparts to take necessary steps to address this issue. 

V. Conclusion 

As we look ahead, American companies will be able to continue to take advantage of President Biden’s economic agenda to invest and help build our new economic future. Success is not preordained. American companies will have to put in hard work and innovate, and we’ll have to navigate challenges to come. We’ll need to work to ensure there’s a level playing field on which companies around the world can compete.  

But it was an American inventor who created the first solar cell in the 1880s. In the 1950s, Bell Laboratories created the silicon solar cell, changing the game again. With the IRA, we’re building on this history and ushering in a new stage of American innovation and manufacturing to increase economic security, broaden economic opportunity, and achieve our climate goals. 

Thank you for having me here today.


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