Whatever happens with the solar panel trade case and tariffs on imported modules, solar power is here to stay. The federal government can slow it down, as state governments have tried to do from Nevada to Florida to Indiana and Maine. But nobody can stop it.
So while the industry is occupied with the trade case, I’d suggest that solar installers try a different focus for 2018 to protect their business now and help it grow in the future.
Yes, do pay more attention to public policy. But make it the right policy.
It’s Not the Sun. It’s the Public Policy.
Anyone who works as a solar installer knows that it takes more than sunshine to make a state good for solar power.
Sure, some of the top-ranked solar states have strong insolation: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah. But what about the other top-ten solar states, located in northerly climes like New Jersey (ranked #5), Massachusetts (#6) or New York (#10)?
And then of course there’s the case of the Sunshine State. Based on sun alone, Florida should be America’s #3 solar state. But unfortunately for solar lovers from Tallahassee to Orlando and Tampa to Miami, Florida ranks poorly for installed solar, coming in at #12.
It’s not the sunshine that makes a top solar state. It’s the public policy.
New Jersey vs Florida
For example, un-sunny New Jersey has been a leader in solar for years because of good net metering, a renewable portfolio standard that requires a certain amount of solar and a RECs market.
By contrast, super sunny Florida has been a weak solar market because it doesn’t have a renewable portfolio standard and doesn’t allow power purchase agreements.
Why is public policy so bad for solar in Florida?
It’s not because Floridians don’t want more solar power. In fact, surveys have shown that solar has overwhelming support among citizens in Florida.
Florida has weak solar policy because monopoly utilities have been able to manipulate public opinion and state government to create laws and rules that hold solar back.
Beating Back Utilities in Nevada
Even in good solar states, like Nevada, utilities can push back solar policies.
That’s just what happened in 2016, and it nearly killed Nevada’s booming solar market. Fortunately, solar homeowners successfully fought back to preserve their solar rights and bring fairness back to Nevada’s electricity market.
What it took in Nevada for the solar industry to turn defeat into victory was an army of solar homeowners and other citizens who demanded their solar rights.
It wasn’t enough for professional lobbyists paid by the industry or environmental groups to object to the state’s moves against solar. It took ordinary citizens to make the difference.
And that’s what it will take in every state, and in Washington, DC, to fight off attacks by monopoly utilities on rooftop solar and to go further and make solar power into America’s #1 energy source.
Beyond Playing Defense
Wouldn’t it be great if we could start recruiting a peaceful army of citizen-lobbyists to stand up for solar from coast to coast?
That’s what the solar industry needs to realize its true potential.
Groups like SEIA and Vote Solar have been doing their best to defend stuff we already have, like net metering, or fight bad stuff, like fixed charges on electric bills for solar homeowners.
That’s necessary. But it’s not enough. These groups need help. And they need to think bigger.
A real solar army of millions of citizens could do much more. A big enough mobilization of citizens could help solar stop playing defense and finally go on the offensive.
For example, we could get the federal government to put a national price on carbon, like that proposed by the Climate Leadership Council. This would make fossil fuels pay for the right to emit carbon pollution, which they now get for free. In turn, a carbon price would raise the price of dirty energy immediately and make solar relatively cheaper.
Let the marketplace do the work. Cheaper solar = more solar.
And higher rates from utilities that use dirty energy, to paraphrase former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, a leading proponent of a carbon price, would make the phones at solar installers ring off the hook.
So that’s why I decided to write a handbook for solar revolutionaries. To recruit a solar army in every state and help the solar industry take its rightful place as America’s leading energy provider.
Recruiting an Army for Solar from Coast to Coast
I’m pleased to announce that my incendiary guide to fight back against monopoly utilities and energy tyrants in government, The Solar Patriot, has just been published.
Monopoly utilities, from Florida Power & Light to Xcel to Dominion, will hate this book. So will energy tyrants like Maine Governor Paul LePage.
But if you support more solar power, I think you’ll love The Solar Patriot.
As of January 2018, you can buy the book at Amazon.com. I’ll also make the full text available online for free download. More on that below.
Who needs this book?
- Solar homeowners already have a financial interest to defend public policy that levels the playing field for rooftop solar, from net metering to fair utility rate schedules. I hope that solar installers will share copies of the book with their customers.
- Solar industry workers, especially installers, also need the book. It will help them start advocating for better solar policy or, if they’re already doing that, the book will help them up their game and become even more effective when talking to elected officials.
- Environmentalists and solar-curious citizens of all kinds also will find the book inspiring and helpful as they seek to support America’s clean energy revolution.
I’m so pleased that solar industry pros, whether liberal or conservative, seem to agree. For example, just take these two endorsements of The Solar Patriot:
Fighting for energy choice is much like arguments from Republicans around school or health care choice. It’s about the free market and competition. It’s about independence. It’s about fighting for a better future. Giving people access to solar energy is one of the most patriotic things you can do. Erik Curren understands this concept and helps lay out an important vision in The Solar Patriot.
Director, Public Policy, Sunrun Inc.
Everyone with an interest in solar, or who is a solar skeptic, should read this book. This is a highly engrossing call to arms for Solar Patriots, making insightful connections about freedom from electric utilities’ efforts to control solar and our American Revolutionary heritage about seeking freedom from tyranny. The book informs as it engages the reader with vignettes about today’s solar revolutionaries, and making the connections with the values, tactics, and leaders who won our American freedom. I would highly recommend this to anyone who seeks new insights on how solar represents an American ideal, combined with practical solutions on how to make a difference in making rooftop solar happen, either individually, or by finding common cause with a local or national group.
Anthony E. Smith, PhD
CEO and President, Secure Futures Solar
To make sure the book gets out to the solar advocates who need it most, I’ve also decided to make the complete book available online. I’ll add new chapters over the coming months. For now, you can download the first quarter of the book — absolutely free.
Just go to The Solar Patriot website to download your free chapters now.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group