The sun is rising on solar panels, and there"s no fighting it Time:2017/01/19 14:58:04 Hit:206
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
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
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.
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