In the District of Columbia, the city’s Renewable Energy Incentive Plan has been diverted to help prop up the budget.
Like many municipalities across the nation, D.C. is in crisis, and the $2-million-per-year fund that was supposed to last through 2012 to help residents pay for residential solar PV rooftops has been canceled.
It’s not much of a surprise anymore. Similar actions took place in 2010 in such diverse places as Long Island, New York; Florida; Arizona; and California. Many of the changes were rate reductions, due to oversold solar or states having met a step-down rate for installation.
Some were actual cuts, but only because the program was sold out within minutes of being offered. In Washington, D.C. the cuts were an actual breach of promise, leaving 51 residents on the hook for about $700,000 worth of solar installations that they likely can’t afford and wouldn’t have made without the city’s backing.
D.C.’s action is reminiscent of the recent solar rebate cut by Xcel Energy, Inc. in Colorado – another abrupt cut that left customers and solar companies aghast. The entire scenario is beginning to look like a frontal attack on what President Barack Obama has consistently referred to as the “clean energy economy.”
Ever since the midterm elections, however, and the takeover by Republicans – who now dominate both the U.S. House and a majority of state legislatures – the fall of the solar house of cards begins to look more like an engineered event than a natural disaster.
Political reality suggests that Republicans are firmly in the fossil fuel-energy camp – a suggestion reinforced by the fact that fossil fuels garner at least $557 billion per year in subsidies, even though coal-fired power plants are shown to cost $345 billion each year in terms of peripheral (health and environmental) costs.
It’s no surprise that many solar aficionados are asking themselves whether 2011 will be the sunset year for solar energy, and if that is the result of a particular agenda or merely the side effect of a lousy economy.