The growth of solar power is attracting some unlikely supporters and creating some unusual alliances. Conservatives, Tea Party activists, and free market libertarians are joining with progressives and environmentalists to address economic issues raised by the increasing adoption of solar power.
In Georgia, a Tea Party leader, the Sierra Club, Occupy Atlanta, and the NAACP have formed the Green Tea Coalition to empower consumers’ access to solar power. In Arizona, Barry Goldwater Jr., a modern conservative and former congressman, and the son of a classic conservative icon, led the resistance to Arizona’s utilities’ effort to collect a $100 monthly surcharge from its solar customers. The issues are two: use of the existing grid and net metering.
Traditional utilities argue that solar power users do not pay their fair share for use of the existing power grid. They also object to the net metering subsidies solar users get for the excess energy they feed back into the grid. In reply, the new coalitions point to the billions of dollars in subsidies that flow to the fossil fuel industry. And one productive compromise on grid use has been reached: the Arizona Public Utilities commission and its solar customers have agreed on a $5 monthly fee contribution toward grid maintenance. The bottom line? Solar power, a disruptive technology, is also producing disruptive change in the political-ideological context for debating renewable energy issues.
Article by John Howell, appearing courtesy 3BL Media.