Power of the Sun

The White House announced last week that it is making much more commitments to solar energy deployment and jobs and calling for others to join in the renewable energy push. The solar expansion includes:

    • Funding Regional Solar Market Pathways: Today, the Energy Department announced a $15 million Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity to support state, tribal, and local leaders in developing plans that create the economic environment for cost-competitive solar deployment. The new Solar Market Pathways program will target broader regulatory and policy market barriers with a focus on stakeholder partnerships and commercial-scale solar. It will fund the development of multi-year plans and innovative programs to help spur significant solar market growth. Examples include establishing or expanding shared or community solar programs and local financing mechanisms, such as commercial property assessed clean energy (PACE).
    • Providing Technical Assistance and Analysis to Support Solar at Federally-Assisted Housing: The Climate Action Plan calls for a target of 100 megawatts of installed capacity of renewable energy on-site at federally subsidized housing by 2020. The 100 megawatt target aims to make use of millions of federally-subsidized roofs with on-site generation potential and will more than triple the existing renewable energy capacity onsite. Today, the Energy Department’s SunShot initiative, which is dedicated to reducing soft-costs of solar power installations, is providing staff and resources to ensure we reach the 100 megawatt target, while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is providing technical expertise and mapping support.
    • Launching an “On-Site Renewables Challenge” as part of EPA’s Green Power Partnership: Since 2001, EPA’s Green Power Partnership has worked with businesses, local and state governments, schools, and Federal agencies to expand the use of clean renewable energy, including solar. More than 1,500 organizations have been recognized for their leadership as Green Power Partners, together purchasing enough green power annually to avoid the carbon emissions of more than 2.4 million homes. Today, EPA announced that the Green Power Partnership will aim to double the use of on-site renewable energy, including solar energy, at Partner facilities by the end of the decade. To support this goal, EPA is announcing a new On-site Renewables Challenge within the Green Power Partnership. The Partnership will track all Partners’ annual combined on-site renewable energy use, which will be updated quarterly. As part of the Challenge, EPA is inviting Partners to commit to increasing the amount of energy they produce and use from on-site renewables by the end of the decade.
    • Sharing Best Practices with a “Solar Deployment Playbook”: To assist businesses looking to install solar, in the next few months the Energy Department will release the Commercial Solar Deployment Playbook. The playbook will help businesses to identify low-cost financing for solar energy, provide model contracts, and offer case studies of businesses improving their bottom line by deploying solar.
    • Advancing Solar by Partnering with the Rural Utilities Service: Rural America offers excellent resources for renewable energy, and is home to electric co-ops that provide reliable, affordable power for their customers.  To support the growth of renewable energy in rural areas, last year, Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program finalized rules to facilitate the development of distributed generation and solar in rural communities.  To bolster this new RUS program, the Agriculture and Energy Departments will work with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to develop tools, templates, and finance options for co-ops looking to deploy distributed solar in rural communities, including on Federally assisted housing.
    • Leveraging Financing Tools to Deploy Solar: The growth of solar has been fueled in part by access to innovative financing tools. Today, DOE is announcing that in the coming months it will release an updated Guide to Federal Financing for Clean Energy. This guide will highlight financing programs located in various Federal agencies, such as the Treasury, EPA, and USDA, which can be used for energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Earlier this week, the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office also announced the release of the draft Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee Solicitation. This solicitation makes available at least $2.5 billion in loan guarantee authority, which can support innovative solar energy projects and will highlight projects focused on improving the functionality of distributed generation and energy storage.
    • Bolstering Co-Investment in Renewable Energy and Natural Gas: The NREL’s Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis is hosting a series of workshops focused on the unique opportunities for greater synergistic use of natural gas and renewable energy. The workshops will be held in four locations: New York City, focusing on the investment community; Washington, D.C., focusing on national policy; and the states of Texas and California, where both natural gas and renewables play a significant role in the economy, and could be used more synergistically.
    • Steep Decline in Solar Technology Costs: Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of solar panels has dropped more than 60% and the cost of a solar photovoltaic electric system has dropped by about 50%. Solar is now more affordable and more accessible for more American families and companies.
    • Deployment of Solar on Public Lands and Buildings:  Five years ago, there were no renewable energy projects on public lands. Today, the Interior Department is on track to permit enough renewable energy projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; the Defense Department has set a goal to deploy three gigawatts of renewable energy – including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal — on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations by 2025; and, as part of the Climate Action Plan, the Federal Government overall committed to sourcing 20% of the energy consumed in Federal buildings from renewable sources by 2020.
    • Creation of Solar Jobs: According to industry analysis, solar now employs nearly 143,000 workers in the United States, a growth of more than 50% since 2010. Jobs in the solar industry are increasing faster than any other sector in the United States — by more than 20% each year. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar, supporting workers whose jobs can’t be outsourced.

However, a recent publication from the National Center for Public Policy said that:

Globally, grid-connected solar capacity increased an average of 60 percent annually from 2004 to 2009, faster than any other energy source. Solar electricity production grew 15.5 percent in 2009 alone. Today, however, solar power still accounts for less than one-half of one percent of the world’s electric power output. Despite its impressive growth, and even with significant subsidies, solar power is substantially more expensive than conventional power sources in most locations.Analysts agree that if solar is to become a significant power source, it must compete with other energy sources — in markets without subsidies to any form of energy, barriers to the entry of new producers or discriminatory price regulations. When the price at which customers in a particular area can purchase electricity generated by solar power is about the same as the average price of electricity generated by conventional sources, it is said to have reached grid parity.

While it may seem like a good idea, in theory — in reality, pushing something like this way too early will simply not work. You have to let the free market decide when to use alternative energies and which ones. Forcing them causes huge government waste and time as well as failures.

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