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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) does not directly address the utilization of ceramic, glass or any related segments of our industry. However, we can infer which products/areas will benefit by looking at some of the legislation’s main provisions.
Renewables have long been seen as an opportunity for growth in a number of our industry segments, and this latest legislation will certainly expand the potential. According to the executive summary issued by the Committee on Appropriations, the act designates “over $30 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing on investment in renewable technology.”
Segments that will benefit from expanded renewable energy development and use mainly include advanced ceramics and glass. Advanced ceramic raw materials and finished components are used in the production of solar cells, fuel cells, advanced batteries, spent nuclear material containment devices, and wind turbines. Glass is utilized in the manufacture of solar and fuel cells, as well, and glass fiber is also commonly used in wind turbine compositions.
The legislation also includes a new 30% Advanced Energy Investment Tax credit, which, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), will be used “for investment in facilities that manufacture ‘advanced energy property,’ for example, technologies for producing renewable energy, conserving energy, transmitting renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Funding for upgrading business, government, and scientific facilities, as well as weatherizing for homes, will also benefit our industries. For example, the law calls for $7.2 billion to expand broadband and wireless availability for businesses in rural areas. The main beneficiary here will be glass, as fiber optic cable will be required to enable these high-speed connections. Advanced ceramic raw materials and components manufacturers that target the related electronics should benefit as well.
The “greening” of schools and federal facilities, which will receive $53.6 billion and $5.55 billion, respectively, will provide opportunities for glass and brick manufacturers, as well as possible benefits for those in sanitaryware and even tile. Building exteriors will benefit from energy-saving advanced window technologies, and brick is a commonly used exterior for these types of facilities. If bathrooms are to be remodeled, toilets that reduce the volume of water used will certainly be in demand. In addition, self-cleaning tile reduces the use of cleaning products, while germ-resistant tile can curb the transmission of disease (especially beneficial in schools).
The legislation also calls for $5 billion to be directed toward home weatherization for modest- to low-income families. Glass (in the form of windows and fiber used in insulation), as well as possibly brick, will benefit.
Manufacturers of equipment and instrumentation used in scientific facilities such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and NASA, among others, will benefit as those facilities receive funding to expand their research scope and renovate their laboratories.
The $787 billion ARRA will offer a multitude of opportunities for those involved in the ceramic, glass and related industries. Only time will tell how much of an impact the legislation will actually have, but the potential is certainly promising.