Energy Autonomy

Moderated by Rick Badie

A Georgia Tea Party pioneer has joined forces with both like-minded conservatives and progressives nationwide to advocate for solar energy and fight state regulatory barriers that they say limit the ability of utility customers to switch to the energy source. Today, she writes about her efforts to help families and businesses acquire more energy autonomy. Meanwhile, the state director for a conservative nonprofit provides an opposing view, suggesting that solar policies like the one in Georgia shun free-market concepts.

Energy freedom for all

By Debbie Dooley

As a lifelong conservative who believes in free-market principles, I believe that the giant electric monopolies deserve competition and consumers deserve choice. We need to set aside our old way of thinking and invest in the new, innovative technology of low-cost, clean energy and diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.

To that end, I co-founded the Green Tea Coalition in 2013 , along with activists from the Sierra Club and other environmental groups and we began to advocate for solar energy in Georgia. Green Tea Coalition unites activists from the left and right to advocate for sound energy policy that provides choice for the consumer and adds more cost effective, clean energy into our nation’s energy mix. Conservatives and progressives don’t agree on climate change or the importance of fossil fuel, but we do agree we want a clean environment and energy freedom for future generations of Americans.

Because of the innovative thinking of Georgia’s Public Service Commission, led by Bubba McDonald, Georgia ranked No. 1 in the nation this past quarter in creating 2,800 clean-energy jobs and is one of the fastest-growing states taking advantage of solar energy. Due to an effort led by state Rep. Michael Dudgeon and with assistance from state Rep. Don Parsons, the Georgia Legislature just passed a third-party solar leasing bill with unanimous support from both parties and Georgia Power.

Georgia is showing the nation that the left and right can set aside political differences and work together to provide a clean energy choice for consumers that satisfies the free market principles of the right and the clean energy demands of the left. With the passage of the solar leasing bill, you can expect the solar industry to add even more good-paying jobs. Georgia Power recently announced it’s getting into the rooftop solar business and will be offering solar leasing plans to their customers.

There is still work to be done in Georgia to advance solar choice for Georgians. Next on the horizon is to remove the hurdles that some electric co-ops have in place to discourage solar use. These hurdles include unjustified fees and charges and long interconnection delays. We strongly believe the free market should be given a chance to work without hurdles and unfair competition.

In 2014, I founded Conservatives for Energy Freedom to provide a much-needed national conservative voice that advocates for energy choice and to convince conservatives to join the free market energy revolution. Presently, I am active in 10 states.

One of my biggest projects is a free-market solar project in Florida. There, conservative groups, environmental groups, the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Restaurant and Hospitality Group have united in a desire to advance third-party sales and leasing of solar. We formed Floridians for Solar Choice in January and have a free market solar choice ballot amendment which we hope will be on the general election ballot in 2016. Our amendment would remove barriers and allow Floridians to have the right to lease solar panels and purchase solar power from third parties. If voters approve it, Floridians would have the right to harvest Florida’s biggest natural resource, the sunlight, and sell excess solar power generated to their neighbors for a profit.

Recent polling conducted by a Republican polling firm, North Star Opinion Research, showed that 82 percent of Florida voters support our ballot amendment. Even more surprising is the fact that 65 percent of tea party-leaning voters supported it. This truly shows solar is no longer just for “tree huggers” and proves that conservatives are embracing solar as an option for free-market choice.

Debbie Dooley is president of Conservatives for Energy Freedom.

Shed light on costly solar subsidies

By Michael Harden

What happens when Washington muscles its way into the marketplace?

In the case of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which President Barack Obama once said was, “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future,” the result is a loss to taxpayers in excess of $500 million.

Recently, the Inspector General for the Department of Energy released its post-mortem of the failed energy company’s efforts to secure a government-backed loan and found that, “…actions of certain Solyndra officials were, at best reckless and irresponsible or, at worst, an orchestrated effort to knowingly and intentionally deceive and mislead.”

When bureaucrats pick winners and losers in the marketplace, the game is always stacked. Heads, the crony business wins; tails, the taxpayer loses. This is what we can expect from solar energy subsidies in Georgia.

While Obama and his progressive allies clearly favor certain industries over others, Americans for Prosperity does not. Georgia households deserve access to affordable and reliable energy solutions. They also deserve to have their tax dollars spent wisely, not on handouts for special interests like those in the green-energy industry. Energy companies should compete on their merits in an open marketplace without a leg up from government.

Through 2014, Georgia offered a 35 percent personal tax credit up to $10,500 for solar power installations. On top of federal solar incentives, Georgians could save more than $20,000 at taxpayer expense. Not only do these solar tax credits represent unadulterated corporate cronyism , but they deprive government of legitimate revenue it should have to fund roads, schools and other necessities. In the process, renewable energy tax credits and subsidies force higher taxes across the board on the rest of us, all to subsidize unreliable and expensive energy sources that are not self-sustaining.

The president and his left-leaning allies consistently change the goal posts in order to justify their cap-and-tax schemes. Enter Obama’s latest attempt to tax the climate, the so-called “Clean Power Plan.” It seeks to force states to cut an average of 32 percent of their carbon emissions by 2030 (and 34 percent here in Georgia). The Environmental Protection Agency has said that carbon regulation would only impact global temperatures by 0.018 degrees between now and the year 2100. That’s a lot of pain for woefully little gain.

To achieve this, the president has stated a goal of doubling our renewable electricity production from 13 percent today to 28 percent by 2030. What he fails to mention is that green energies are more expensive and less reliable than conventional sources. Electricity from new wind is, on average, three times more expensive than electricity generated from coal. What is often forgotten in Washington steakhouses is how policies like these impact the most vulnerable Americans. The poorest among us use three times the energy as a percentage of their income as the average American does.

According to a study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, this EPA plan will increase the black poverty rate from 26 percent to 32 percent by 2025. For Hispanics, the poverty rate will rise from 23 percent to 29 percent.

I may be a farmer from North Georgia, but it doesn’t take a hedge fund manager to realize that “environmental justice” brings no justice for the poor and has absolutely no impact on the climate. When politicians talk about giving subsidies and tax carve-outs to their favorite industries, be skeptical. This type of policy making results in government subsidizing the politically-connected at the expense of the average American.

It’s been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s get some sunshine on these corporate welfare policies.

Michael Harden is Georgia state director for Americans For Prosperity.

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