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The sun is rising on solar panels, and there"s no fighting it Time:2017/01/19 14:58:04 Hit:410

On the average sunny day, Germany¡¯s huge energy grid gets 40 percent of its

 

power from the sun. Guess what happened one recent morning when the sun went

 

into eclipse. Nothing.

 

Or close to nothing. When the moon hid the sun for a few hours, the backup

 

natural gas and coal plants switched on. The price of electricity rose briefly.

 

That was it. Solar again showed itself to be a reliable energy source under a

 

tough challenge.

 

Back in the United States, meanwhile, electric companies and various fossil-fuel

 

interests are fighting the American public¡¯s growing passion for rooftop solar

 

panels. They¡¯re also doing battle with state laws requiring utilities to get a

 

certain percentage of their power from renewable sources.

 

Oil, gas and coal lobbyists, fed by Koch brother checks, are backing a campaign

 

by utilities to slap fees on solar panels. Their target is net metering ¡ª the

 

system whereby homes and businesses with solar panels sell their excess

 

electricity back to the grid.

 

In Arizona, the big utility Salt River Project is adding a $50-a-month surcharge

 

for customers with rooftop solar panels. SRP argues, as do other utilities, that

 

solar customers rely on the grid for backup power when the sun doesn¡¯t shine

 

and should pay for it.

 

Studies out of Missouri, New York, Texas, Nevada and Vermont counter that the

 

alleged subsidies to those with solar panels are being offset. After all, solar

 

consumers reduce the amount of power the utilities must provide ¡ª especially on

 

hot sunny days, when demand is high. And a price can be put on greenhouse gases

 

that were not emitted.

 

Big voices in the conservative movement are leading the charge for solar panel

 

taxes. They also liken states¡¯ green-energy mandates to Obamacare. The

 

conservative masses, however, don¡¯t seem to be taking the bait. You don¡¯t even

 

have to ask about the liberals.

 

A power source that is domestic, is pollution-free and costs nothing (once the

 

panels are paid off) ¡ª all courtesy of Mr. Sun ¡ª would seem to be in our

 

national interests. Also, how interesting that SRP, in super-sunny Arizona,

 

reportedly gets less than 2 percent of its power from solar and wind sources

 

combined.

 

Huge numbers of Americans have been installing solar panels, thanks to better

 

and cheaper technology. Businesses that stand to lose from this fact have set

 

off clashes in nearly half the states ¡ª from Maine to California and Washington

 

to South Carolina.

 

The utilities weren¡¯t getting much traction in the legislatures ¡ª even in such

 

Republican states as Indiana and Utah. So they turned to the public utilities

 

commissions, where they can get a more private hearing.

 

Pro-solar conservatives hold that taxing solar panels stifles competition. A

 

group called T.U.S.K. (Tell Utilities Solar won¡¯t be Killed) is led by a former

 

congressman named Barry Goldwater Jr. (the son).

 

Of a plan in Indiana to tax solar panels, one woman wrote, ¡°Indiana¡¯s

 

utilities are interested in keeping us reliant on traditional fuel sources that

 

hurt our national security and weaken our economy.¡± She would be Roberta

 

Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America.

 

So U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can huff and puff about a ¡°war

 

on coal,¡± but to little avail. By the way, the domestic solar industry now

 

employs more workers than does coal mining.

 

The utilities¡¯ distress is understandable, but they can¡¯t win this war. The

 

means of generating energy are undergoing profound change worldwide. The

 

utilities must change their business model or, if they can¡¯t, concede the

 

inevitable. You can¡¯t stop the march of solar power any more than you can stop

 

the sun from rising.

 

 

Original:Froma Harrop