Solar Policy: Name Calling Is Not An Argument

I debated long and hard about writing this post, but I think it bears mentioning, if only to dispel some misconceptions about one of the things I wrote from my daily posts from the Solar Power Generation conference last week.

In the second of my dispatches, I wrote the following:

An interesting question came up in the same session: Why aren’t more projects being developed in the Southeast? Yes, the irradiation isn’t as high as it is in California, but it’s not as low as New Jersey. The regulations are lower, the hurdles to develop projects are lower — why isn’t anyone coming to the Southeast to bring solar projects to those states? The general consensus of the assembled experts was that the Southeast doesn’t get more business because, though all of the questioner’s points were accurate, there are few — if any — incentives for developers to go there. There’s no notable Renewable Portfolio Standards (which require state utilities to have a portion of their portfolio coming from renewable energy sources), and there are few if any subsidies or incentives (like the Renewable Energy Certificates so popular in other states). That renders projects less profitable in the Southeast than they are in other parts of the country — so developers aren’t coming.

Which elicited this reader comment from a gentleman named Andrew Tomer:

There you go, lack of ratepayer extracted subsidies holding back solar powerin the South East region of the country.Geesh, who would have thought those hayseeds would not have wanted extra charges tacked on their power bills for the privilege of buying more expensive electricity!
I’m not entirely sure who Mr. Tomer is referring to as “hayseeds.” As you can see from my post, I never used the term. I would also like to point out that the question came from a utility-scale developer in Tennessee (not Southeast, of course, but still accompanied by the awesome Southern drawl). I was personally offended by the implication that anyone who talks with a drawl is stupid — or should be against solar power development in their states.
It’s my guess that the questioner would like her state to get some of the economic benefits that accrue to states that are heavy into solar power (here’s an explanation of the study that cited 100,000 jobs in the solar industry in the United States).
I get it: There’s a certain segment of the population (of which I presume Mr. Tomer is one) who would rather be boiled in oil than raise taxes, especially for something as “frivolous” as solar power. That’s a perfectly legitimate point of view (one I disagree with strongly, but that’s a different discussion for a different day). But there are economic benefits to having a solar policy in the states that encourages this fast-growing industry, especially in times of economic turmoil like those we’re experiencing in the United States today.
I would encourage Mr. Tomer to continue speaking out for his point of view, but I would ask him — respectfully — to stop calling people who disagree with him names. Name calling is not an argument — it leads one to assume that there are no facts to back up the ideas being expressed.
I’m completely open to a reasonable discussion of the pros and cons of solar policy, but let’s not let it devolve into bickering — these are questions that are far too important to the future of the industry.
  • Organ Donors, Inc.

    Actually, I don’t think the argument is with Mr. Tomer’s position so much as it is with his choice of ad-hominem and name calling attacks.

    I know in this day and age of internet anonymity, people are tempted to turn into trolls at midnight – but it’s really a much more useful discussion if we avoid such transformations.

  • Organ Donors, Inc.

    If we want to be in the world at all, we’d better start thinking about both the greater good and the cheaper good, not _just_ the cheaper good. Especially when the cheaper good has a short lifespan.

    In order for green energy to be cost-effective, it has to be funded, tested, and run in the real-world.

    How on earth do you think the ICE/Automotive industry got as far as it did? It was quickly identified as a strategic technology and _funded_. It’s important enough that much of the industry was bailed-out in the last crisis, rather than letting it die.

    Green tech? Surprise-surprise – no different. No funding, no experimentation – no results.

  • NonGreen

    I would have to agree with Mr. Tomer. If we want to be competitive in the world, we need the most cost effective power, not the most politically correct power. In a related article, the effciency of the panels is becoming better. When solar matures to a point where generating power from “green energy” costs equal or less than other sources, that is when private capital will make it spread. Higher power bills or higher taxes for subsidizing solar or any green tech is damaging to the economy.

    • Needgreen

      Nongreen, what you say is correct regarding the flow of private capital. I believe what is being taken for granted is how we get to that point (when solar matures). There is no doubt in my mind, and there is plenty of evidence to support this, that subsidies from ratepayers and governments have driven the innovation and real price declines we have experienced in solar energy. Even leaving the environmental benefits out, you will benefit from this directly or indirectly unless you are in a unique situation. And similarly, please realize that fossil fuel production has also benefited from subsidies. None of us likes to pay more for electricity or other goods and services, but if we do not invest in the future, we will surely fall behind in the economic challenges we face.

    • Sirthreepio

      Hi, I agree with “we need the most cost effective power” BUT

      1. I believe that if we add all the costs involved in our power consumption, the “green” energy is cost effective ALREADY.

      2. If you check the real cost of anything you should decide first how much TIME in the future your are going to look and how WIDE distributed will be your range of CONSEQUENCES.