Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Solar's odd couples

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 3:16 PM

There's an old trope that politics makes strange bedfellows, and that's apparently true with solar power subsidies.

Yale Environment 360 published an article yesterday that details the fights over solar power subsidies in some states, Arizona in particular. The article says that the opposition in these states has come from fossil fuel interests, including utility companies. Simply put, they see the growing popularity of rooftop solar panels cutting into their profits. (The panels are becoming cheaper and increasingly efficient, which is helping to increase consumer interest.)

But in a couple of these states, some interesting alliances have formed to fight for the subsidies. In Arizona, a coalition of solar firms is represented by Barry Goldwater Jr., a former Congress member whose father was a conservative Republican icon. The article says Goldwater casts the issue as a matter of consumer choice and market competition.

And the article says that in Georgia, environmentalists and Tea Party activists have formed the Green Tea Coalition. Because of the group's advocacy, Georgia regulators told the state's largest power company to add 525 megawatts of solar capacity by 2016.

The article also lays out the different approaches power companies are taking when it comes to competition from solar. While some companies are fighting the subsidies, others have decided to seize the opportunity by selling rooftop solar systems, it says.

New York has some pretty robust incentives for rooftop solar systems, both residential and commercial, but there's been little public opposition to the programs.

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