Departments of Energy and Commerce Programs To Promote Solar Products in Foreign Markets

ID-82-17: Published: Feb 12, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 12, 1982.

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GAO testified before a Senate committee concerning the effects of the then-proposed fiscal year (FY) 1982 budget reductions upon the ability of the U.S. photovoltaics industry to compete successfully in foreign markets. As a result of the hearings, GAO prepared some additional information on the solar energy export promotion program and activities of the Department of Energy (DOE), which the FY 1982 budget eliminated, and related Department of Commerce programs which might serve the same purpose.

DOE began promoting the export of renewable energy products early in 1978 through an ad hoc interagency working group. The working group conducted a series of domestic export promotion seminars and an overseas exhibition. Its efforts became more formalized with the establishment of the DOE International Market Development Program (IMDP) in 1980. IMDP, with the assistance of the Department of Commerce, conducted domestic export promotion seminars and overseas trade shows of renewable energy products. GAO could not determine the total cost of these events because DOE contractors did not segregate costs, and Commerce could not document all of its costs. However, an estimated $356,900 in IMDP funds were budgeted for the overseas portion of the events. Commerce also conducts trade shows and exhibits and sponsors participation in private trade fairs for designated target industries which it determines will yield the most sales per promotional dollar spent. Renewable energy is not a target industry, but Commerce has included it in some of its past trade shows as part of the building products and electrical power equipment industries. Late in FY 1981, Commerce reprogramed its efforts to explore the renewable energy industry's foreign sales potential. If the results of this program warrant it, Commerce may then designate the industry as a target industry and regularly program renewable energy trade shows and events.

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