Issue: Solar Energy's Alliance with Big Government

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Issue: Solar Energy's Alliance with Big Government

If you love Big Sun you probably also like Big Guv, since the former depends on the latter for its very existence. It’s an unholy alliance that has taxpayers getting sun-burned and government playing the improper role of energy sector central-planner, picking winners and losers based in political fad and fashion.

From research and development support to taxpayer subsidies, from market-creating mandates to Pentagon purchasing programs, solar power is almost wholly dependent on taxpayer handouts and government interventions for its market share, profitability and modest "success." It’s been that way for decades – and it will remain that way forever unless solar energy is forced to take-off the training wheels and move forward under its own power.

Some argue that all emerging new technologies require a helping hand from Uncle Sam. It’s also often argued that government subsidies for some energy providers justify government subsidies for all energy providers. But solar energy technology is not new – taxpayers have been pouring billions of dollars into "renewables" research for decades, with few big breakthroughs to show for it -- and a nation that respects taxpayers, and which believes in free markets, honest competition and limited government, should be saying "subsidies for none" rather than "subsidies for all."

Government’s preferential treatment of solar inhibits real innovation and delays the day when solar will be able to compete in a free market, since solar operators naturally feel less urgency to improve technology, or to sharpen business practices, when the state is shielding them from real-world competition and almost guaranteeing them markets and profits.

Government’s job isn’t to pick energy winners and losers. That’s a Soviet model that’s doomed to failure. Government’s there to establish a few simple ground rules and referee the game, letting market forces, consumer choice and competition-driven innovation determine winners and losers. Big Sun hasn’t ever learned to play the game because no one has forced it to. After decades of pampered and protected treatment, isn’t it time that solar power graduated to the big leagues and plays by the rules?