Commentary

Solar Power: Still Emerging?

Posted by tbaker |

By Mikel C. Lolley

The Earth is an isolated system, and like a battery, the Earth has been storing the sun’s solar energy for 4.5 billion years. Stored as heat, deep in the Earth’s core, but also, miraculously, stored in the leaves of plants, and then, over millennia, transformed into coal, oil and natural gas.
Future generations will look back on the fossil fuel revolutions over the past two centuries with dismay. How could modern civilization take these precious finite natural resources and burn them up with reckless abandon? Like any precious natural resource — once spent — gone, and gone forever.

Add to this recklessness, a dose of geo-political history. Revolutions are never top-down affairs, but always bottom-up, carried out on the backs of “the people.” We have known for decades 70 percent of jobs creation in America is in small business, created on the backs of “the entrepreneurs.” Throughout geo-political history, the high Priests of the day relish in their power and control of the new world order, and set out to thwart change. Big-Energy, the high Priests of our day, have been exceedingly effective at market and political manipulation over the past 40 years, conversely exceedingly effectively at thwarting change and innovation in the emerging sector for distributed renewable energy, and including solar PV. If 70 percent of jobs creation is in start-ups, then why would we continue to invest and subsidize a sector that is completely built-out, and invest in a business model predicated on dwindling natural resources? There are no sustainable jobs predicated on dwindling natural resources.

Big Energy doesn’t want to see some new-fangled technology like solar PV that would allow for distributed energy production by “the people.” Big-Energy doesn’t want me to generate my own power? They don’t. Big Energy wants to maintain the status quo for centralized energy production, so as to utterly monopolize and control the “free-markets” of energy production.

I challenge you to find another example in any sector in America where I can produce a widget and then not be allowed to sell that widget at a fair market price. Big-Energy, ‘takes’ what I produce in kWh widgets, sells them to my neighbor, and gives me a credit. All I get is the avoided costs. I cannot expand my business, borrow money or finance the production of kWh widgets on the promise of credits. The utilities would have you believe that to pay a fair market price for my kWh widgets via a mandate, (a Feed-in tariff) is a subsidy. I guess that would make our entire “free” market economy an elaborate Ponzi scheme of subsidies. Forty years is long enough for the thwarted sector of distributed renewable energy to still be struggling to emerge. I see the renewable energy revolution as our greatest opportunity to put America back to work, re-energize our outsourced manufacturing sector, and re-employ our under-cut middle class. I see distributed renewable energy as decentralized and distributed wealth creation. I see renewable energy as a new and powerful economic development tool, ‘retained wealth.’ Retain our dollars, recirculate those dollars in our local economies, and in lieu of exported out of the local economy.

To know physics and world history is to know why renewable energy has been struggling to emerge for 40 years. We must mandate Big-Energy provide me a fair market price for my kWh widgets.
Call it a subsidy. Call it a tax. Call it a Feed-in Tariff. Call it whatever you want. Anything less should be considered “taking” and un-American.

One Comment

Hogeye Bill October 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

In “Solar Power: Still Emerging,” Mikel Lolley makes a good point – that the current energy market is not a free market at all, but a controlled one. But he gets it wrong on a couple things. He claims that it is bad and irrational for mankind to take advantage of “finite resources.” What? Why shouldn’t people utilize resources that make their life better? The only irrational thing would be not to realize a finite resource is finite. A person’s life is a finite resource, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t live to the fullest.

Lolley claims without proof that people “are not allowed” to sell energy. I don’t believe it. If I had a home solar plant producing more power than I could use, as far as I know it would be totally legal for me to sell it to my next door neighbor, and string a wire to his home. If Lolley knows of some law prohibiting this, he failed to cite it. The article makes it clear that Lolley’s notion of a free market is the government forcing “Big Energy” firms to let competitors use their infrastructure, at government fixed prices. That’s called economic fascism, the opposite of free markets!

When Lolley writes about ending subsidies for Big Energy, I agree 100%; but when he suggests making the emerging solar market as controlled and cartelized as Big Energy, I think, “Find a better idea – don’t repeat the same old failed fascist model. That’s what got us where we are now.”

BTW solar energy is not “there” yet. I went to an energy fair on the square recently, and found that even the hard-core advocates admitted that one could spend $15-20K on solar technology, and it still would only reduce your heating bills by maybe 10%. At this time, solar energy is prohibitively expensive. It has a long shot possibility of replacing fossil fuel, but the fact is we really don’t know yet what the next great energy technology will be.

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