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At the Department of Energy, taxpayer funds held hostage

David Williams on August 04, 2017

(This article first appeared in The Washington Examiner on August 4, 2017) The United States Congress continues to kowtow to the Department of Energy (DoE), allowing it free reign to impose energy choices onto consumers across the country.  Contrary to Congress’ promise to advocate for the taxpayer, and despite the urging of numerous thought-leaders, the 115th Congress has so far neglected to protect those who elected them.  Despite continual failures by the solar industry to become a competitive source of energy, the DoE recently announced $65 million in solar subsidies through the SunShot Initiative designed to advance solar power technologies in America.

The SunShot Initiative, a chief culprit in green energy advocates’ scheme to force solar energy onto everyone, freely siphons taxpayer funds toward crony pet projects. Unsurprisingly, these “renewable” programs are chosen entirely without regard for taxpayer costs.  As a result, rampant solar subsidies have led to expensive failed schemes and embarrassing results for solar advocates.  Nevertheless, obvious lessons remain unlearned by solar advocates and their cohorts.

Year after year, solar company after solar company files for bankruptcy or lays off employees.  Recently, SunEdison declared bankruptcy, unsuccessfully tried to merge with another company, only to fall into $11.7 billion worth of acquisition debt. SunEdison is no outlier; the solar supplier joins a long list of massively subsidized solar companies that have utterly failed over the past several years. In April of this year, Sungevity filed for bankruptcy. Abengoa filed for bankruptcy back in 2016. Abound Solar filed for bankruptcy in 2012.  Solyndra infamously filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

Notice a trend?

Nevertheless, the solar energy industry continually promises consumers that it has their best interest at heart – solar energy is, after all, the clear energy path for the future. The solar industry’s self-adulation has created a bubble of impressive and willful obliviousness, but all of the optimism in the world cannot mask its continual failures.  Solar energy, a pet project of left-wing politicians for several decades, has received taxpayer subsidies since the Carter administration and has proved utterly incapable of overtaking the energy industry.

The solar industry declares that its cheap, innovative technologies will revolutionize the energy choices available to consumers. Instead, consumers and businesses are left with energy bills they can’t pay, sans the technology needed to actually harness the solar energy they’ve paid so much to obtain. This is not the behavior of an industry dependent on its ability to serve its consumers with the best possible product. Rather, Big Solar’s hubris reflects an attitude of entitlement that takes its own inevitability for granted and belittles any naysayers.

The SunShot Initiative’s goal to make solar energy cost-competitive so as to entice consumers is a non-starter. Subsidies always lead to unseen costs that the taxpayer bears one way or another, and often in several different ways.  Taxpayer funds thrown out like candy to the most convincing lobbyists inevitably results in a misallocation of recourses in the worldwide economy.  As a result, energy becomes more expensive and choices grow scarcer.  And, to add insult to injury, a bubble of propped-up growth expands until the market can no longer sustain its imaginary demand and then bursts. Billions in taxpayer funds are wasted in the resulting hangover, with Congress the barman eager to supply the next round of shots for the failed companies.

The SunShot Initiative and its massive government handouts point to a larger underlying question – should the government choose winners and losers in the energy industry?

Over the next two years, this Congress has the opportunity to make good on its promise to protect the taxpayers’ interest.

Will they do it?



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