Solar Subsidies

Under the guise of concern for the environment, the Solar industry has become the pet industry of the Obama Administration and continues to receive millions of dollars in federal tax credits which cost the taxpayer millions.  When giant corporations like Solyndra, Ener1, and others receive so much money from the taxpayer, the American people deserve to know.

The U.S. government needs to stop meddling in industries and create an atmosphere that allows business to prosper without pledging taxpayer support.

Solar Subsidies in the News

Dec. 3, 2015 | Wind and Solar Credits Targeted for Termination

wind and solar

Conservative House Republicans are targeting solar and wind energy subsidies for the chopping block, offering little room for phasing them out or negotiating a one-year extension.

The Republican Study Committee issued its official priorities Tuesday for a “tax extenders” package being negotiated on the Hill.

The priorities present a stark challenge for clean energy advocates. Tuesday’s report advises

  • Ending the Wind Production Tax Credit: “For more than two decades, taxpayers have heavily subsidized the wind industry. Extending the wind production tax credit retroactively for just one year would cost taxpayers an estimated $6.4 billion.”
  • Let the Solar Investment Tax Credit expire: “The solar … tax credit is set to expire in 2016 and should be phased out as scheduled. Residential solar power was a $13 billion market in 2014, eliminating the need for continued government assistance.”

On the solar side, some companies are surprisingly supporting the committee’s position on letting the tax credit expire.

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Nov. 16, 2015 | Solar Energy Contributes to Climate Change

Solar-Panels-on-the-roof

A recent study reveals an aspect about solar energy we never expected or thought possible – it contributes to climate change.

The study, conducted by climate change research scientist Aixue Hu of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that solar panels tend to cause regional cooling when converting sunlight into electricity and increase urban area temperatures when said electricity transforms into heat.

Large solar installations affect global and regional climate by taking solar radiation and distributing it in a different manner than natural processes. In turn, the farms change local radiation balance, “resulting in changes in atmospheric circulation.”

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August 30, 2015 | Big Solar’s Subsidy Bubble

The Department of Energy’s Inspector General revealed last week that the legendary solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra—a poster baby of the Obama stimulus—lied to the feds to get a $535 million loan guarantee before going bust in 2011.

The IG report, which follows a four-year investigation by the IG and FBI, describes how Solyndra engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions,” including inflating the value of corporate contracts and sales, to win a giant loan guarantee in 2009.

The IG notes that DOE loan officers felt “tremendous pressure” from the White House and Congress to rush through loan-guarantee applications. In their haste DOE officials failed “to ask specific questions, and require specific assurances” and overlooked major red flags.

The larger problem is that the White House is more concerned with boosting the politically favored solar industry than protecting taxpayer dollars. More troubling, the solar industry may be growing too big to fail, and the Administration is assisting another taxpayer solar scam.

Solar-leasing companies install rooftop systems (which often cost tens of thousands of dollars) at no upfront consumer cost. Homeowners rent the panels for 20 years at rates that typically escalate over time but are initially cheaper than power from the grid. Investors get to pocket the myriad state and federal subsidies while homeowners are promised hundreds of dollars annually in savings on their electric bills.

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August 27, 2015 | Moniz sees end to subsidies for solar

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters Monday that the price of solar has fallen so dramatically that the market can now grow without subsidies.

Moniz told reporters that the administration supports Congress’ extension of the tax credits, but “I certainly see solar growing” even “without subsidy.” The cost reductions have “been incredible” for the solar industry, making for an improved “value proposition … in many contexts.”

Many in the GOP want all subsidies removed, favoring letting the markets decide which resources succeed. They argue that the government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.

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August 26, 2015 | Top leaders of Solyndra solar panel company repeatedly misled federal officials, investigation finds

Top leaders of a troubled solar panel company that cost taxpayers a half-billion dollars repeatedly misled federal officials and omitted information about the firm’s financial prospects as they sought to win a major government loan, according to a newly-released federal investigative report.

Solyndra’s leaders engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions” that drew a rosy picture of their company enjoying robust sales while they lobbied to win the first clean energy loan the new administration awarded in 2009, a lengthy investigation uncovered.

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August 25, 2015 | Obama Power Plan versus Economic Reality

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency released its new guidelines for the states to follow in reducing emissions from the power plants that provide reliable electricity for our homes, schools, offices, and hospitals. These regulations will do little to improve the environment, but will significantly increase our monthly electric bills, cause frequent power outages, destroy millions of jobs, and shut down entire companies at a time when the economy needs a boost, not a brake.

There are two huge technical problems with the government’s plan. The first is that the technology hasn’t been developed yet for existing power plants to fully comply, and the EPA knows it. That means plants will face huge fines or will have to shut down entirely, as is already happening in the coal industry. The second is that the technology doesn’t yet exist for wind, solar, and other green sources to produce energy as reliably and inexpensively as coal and natural gas. Solar has potential in the decades to come, but it’s doubtful that wind power will ever be able to scale up to the extent needed to power our $18 trillion industrial economy.

A report prepared for the National Black Chamber of Commerce says that the impact of these regulations “on low-income groups, Blacks, and Hispanics would be especially severe. The EPA rules would: 1) Significantly reduce U.S. GDP every year over the next two decades — over $2.3 trillion; 2) Destroy millions of jobs; 3) More than double the cost of power and natural gas to over $1 trillion; 4) Require the average family to pay over $1,225 more for power and gas in 2030 than in 2012.”

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August 3, 2015 | Obama poised to unveil major climate change plan

Obama will tell plant owners they must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, in the first ever mandatory targets.

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July 26, 2015 | Hillary Clinton Calls Out GOP Climate Change Deniers in New 'Stand With Reality' Video

Obama will tell plant owners they must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, in the first ever mandatory targets.

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July 26, 2015 | The global addiction to energy subsidies

The International Monetary Fund’s estimates are substantially higher. It said in May that countries will spend $5.3 trillion subsiding oil, gas and coal in 2015, versus $2 trillion in 2011. That is equivalent to 6.5% of global GDP, and is more than what governments across the world spend on healthcare.

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July 24, 2015 | I support solar energy because of my Tea Party beliefs — not despite them

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America was founded on the principles of liberty and freedom, but unfortunately in many states there are regulatory barriers erected by the government that prohibits the freedom of choice for utility customers – especially when it comes to switching to solar.

Most electric power companies have been granted monopoly status by virtue of legislation that grants these companies the exclusive right to sell electric power in their territory. They have a perfect setup in their business model. They have a government-assigned customer base whom they are able to bill for capital investments, thereby making a guaranteed profit. The more new power plants cost, the more money they make.

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July 21, 2015 | Moon Area considers solar energy for schools

The system would cost between $15 million and $20 million.

A federal tax credit of 30 percent, to expire at the end of 2016, makes the move “appetizing to people who want to invest in solar,” said Bob Keares, president of the solar company, a subsidiary of Keares Electrical Contracting, headquartered in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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July 21, 2015 | Why Are Republicans Resurrecting Failed Green Energy Subsidies?

So not only will the Republicans resume the government money going forward – they’ll make good on the briefest of lapses we just thoroughly enjoyed.

Why is the only time there is bipartisanship in Washington – when both Parties are picking our pockets and then ridiculously wasting what they pilfer?

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July 20, 2015 | US Solar Firm SunEdison Inc Extends Reach Across America's Rooftops With $2.2B Acquisition Of Vivint Solar Inc

Advocates of more rules, including traditional electric companies, point to instancesrats and Republicans from the state’s congressional delegation have questioned regulators about consumer protections. The Grand Canyon State’s attorney general in February settled with a solar firm for fraudulent claims about anticipated power rate increases, and state legislation has been filed on the issue. Washington state is also jumping into the fray. Lawmakers there have floated a trio of bills that would clarify that the state’s utility commission has the right to protect consumers regarding third-party solar leases.

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July 12, 2015 | Obama green energy spending distorts solar power markets, risks ‘bubble’

Taxpayers Protection Alliance study foresees burst when government subsidies dry up.

President Obama has engaged in unprecedented spending on wind and solar power, and argues they’re key to getting the U.S. off of fossil fuels, but recent studies have raised new questions about just how much the so-called green energy sources will cost taxpayers.

A report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance argues that heavy government subsidies for solar power — including spending from Mr. Obama’s 2009 stimulus package — have distorted the market and led to an artificial demand for solar energy across the country. Financial institutions, in turn, have made their own investments because of the high level of government subsidies, creating a “bubble” that will burst when federal and state backing begins to dry up, the study claims.

“For [investors] making money, the best type of investment to go with nowadays is something the government is doing because, in the end, the government is just going to use taxpayer money, no matter what the investment is, good or bad,” said Michi Iljazi, communications and policy manager at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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July 10, 2015 | TPA Releases New Report on Solar Subsidies

TPA concludes that Big Solar’s heavy reliance on risky financing schemes, combined with government handouts, is creating conditions that could generate a “bubble” in the solar market just as Washington policy produced the housing and financial collapse.

“Taxpayers are being left defenseless between two powerful lobbies, Washington and Wall Street,” said David Williams, President of Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Washington has failed to learn its lesson and is similarly doubling down on Big Solar.  “Government policies—specifically using taxpayer-provided money and taxpayer-backed loans—ignited the fire.  Other government imposed rules which incentivized banks to securitize mortgages that in a free market would have been undesirable (low quality and high risk), along with the government purchase of those mortgages, burned the house down,” the report states.

The TPA report concludes, “Few people realize that the United States could be heading down a similar path with its current promotion of solar power.  Subsidies available for solar power at the federal and state level come in a variety of forms.  Most importantly, they are unreasonably generous.  Much like the government-created housing bubble, the policymakers’ goal to increase renewable energy production is arbitrary and unnecessary.  And much like the housing bubble and subsequent financial crisis, handouts at the federal and state level are creating a solar bubble that taxpayers are propping up, and it will be the taxpayers and investors who take the hit when the industry comes crashing down.”

“In recent years, companies have used a variety of financing mechanisms, most notably third-party solar leasing, to take advantage of lavish handouts.  Companies are then bundling and securitizing those leases to raise funds to pay the upfront costs for more home and small business installations…,” notes the report.  “Billions of taxpayer dollars and private investment have already been squandered from failed solar investments in the United States.  Continuing to channel spending towards a politically-preferred sector of the economy and propping up an industry dependent on subsidies could result in a collapsing green bubble.”

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July 7, 2015 | Many Americans still lack access to solar energy. Here’s how Obama plans to change that

More and more voices of late are airing concerns about equal access to solar energy. “The rapid decline of solar panel costs in recent years has ushered in a solar boom that has not spread uniformly across the spectrum of U.S. household incomes,” notes a recent paper from the George Washington University Solar Institute. “Despite being more vulnerable to energy costs, lower income Americans have lagged behind more affluent households in adopting solar and realizing its numerous benefits.”

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July 5, 2015 | Obama’s Renewable-Energy Fantasy

Recently Bill Gates explained in an interview with the Financial Times why current renewables are dead-end technologies. They are unreliable. Battery storage is inadequate. Wind and solar output depends on the weather. The cost of decarbonization using today’s technology is “beyond astronomical,” Mr. Gates concluded.

Google engineers came to a similar conclusion last year. After seven years of investigation, they found no way to get the cost of renewables competitive with coal. “Unfortunately,” the engineers reported, “most of today’s clean generation sources can’t provide power that is both distributed and dispatchable”—that is, electricity that can be ramped up and down quickly. “Solar panels, for example, can be put on every rooftop, but can’t provide power if the sun isn’t shining.”

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June 2, 2015 | Feds pour $32 million more into beleaguered solar industry

The Department of Energy has doled out another $32 million to support the solar industry, a sector fraught with technology challenges and scandal – and nevertheless propped up with billions of taxpayer dollars during the Obama Administration.

The Obama Administration has spent $150 billion on green initiatives between 2009 and 2014, yet the industry cannot survive without government giveaways, a Brookings Institution study found.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to spend even more money on job-training programs that are proven failures,”—Heritage Foundation energy expert David W. Kreutzer.

The tax credits, incentives and loan guarantees have spawned a whole new type of business – solar leasing, pioneered by California-based SolarCity. The option of reaping the benefits of a solar system while paying a small monthly leasing fee has been attractive to some consumers –  at a cost to other taxpayers. Behind the scenes, the U.S. Treasury Department began to investigate whether SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity inflated the costs of their installations in order to receive additional tax incentives.

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May 31, 2015 | Massachusetts powers solar systems

Large swaths of green pasture along Massachusetts highways are being transformed into solar power fields that state transportation officials say could save taxpayers $15 million over the next 20 years.

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May 26, 2015 | Apple facility catches fire in Arizona

The blaze started at the solar panels on the building’s roof; its cause was not immediately known.

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May 26, 2015 | Solar Shines as Sellers Sometimes Pay Buyers to Use Power

Even with the rapid growth, solar still accounts for less than 1 percent of total U.S. power production, behind coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear and hydroelectric, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration. Because output suffers on cloudy or hazy days, grid operators have to keep conventional plants on standby.

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May 26, 2015 | Obama administration pumps $32M into solar industry

The Department of Energy announced a $32 million funding program to support jobs and research in the solar energy sector.

Of that funding, $12 million will go toward projects to train solar technicians and provide information about solar power to “other professionals in related fields such as real estate, insurance, finance and fire and safety,” according to the Department of Energy. The funding will go toward the Obama administration’s goal of training 75,000 new solar workers by 2020.

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May 22, 2015 | Let the sun shine on freedom

There is a fairly touchy conversation underway in the halls of the nation’s capitol about the future of the solar energy investment tax credit, because it is set to expire at the end of 2016, and President Obama has asked Congress to make the credit permanent.

The solar investment tax credit is 30 percent, meaning the government will reimburse taxpayers for 30 percent of the cost of solar panels on their homes or businesses (assuming they pay taxes). The ITC was created in 2005 for one year in an attempt to spur the fledgling solar industry, but Congress has extended it twice.

As during both prior debates, the solar industry is again expressing dire concern about the future of renewable energy — and our planet — without the investment tax credit. Needless to say, lobbyists on both sides are spending lots of money trying to convince Congress to extend the ITC, or not to do so.

Ironically, solar industry officials telling Congress that they could not survive elimination of the investment tax credit may create a self-fulfilling prophesy, because it may keep investors away. Many solar firms depend on the ability to sell these tax credits to financial institutions, but very few banks or insurance companies will invest in companies that may be gone in a couple years.

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May 17, 2015 | The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze

Rooftop solar shouldn’t be saving them money (though it often does), and it almost certainly isn’t green. In fact, the rooftop-solar craze is wasting billions of dollars a year that could be spent on greener initiatives. It also is hindering the growth of much more cost-effective renewable sources of power.

Yet the federal subsidies for solar amount to about $5 billion a year, with more than half of that amount going to rooftop and other, more expensive, non-utility solar plants. If the federal government spent the $5 billion instead subsidizing only utility-scale solar plants, I estimate that it could increase the amount of solar power installed in this country every year by about 65%. And without net metering and all of the other nonsensical state and local subsidies for rooftop solar, we could save this country billions of dollars every year.

It is time to stop encouraging people to pick a losing technology merely because it makes them feel good. There are greener, more cost-effective solutions.

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May 7, 2015 | SolarCity says ‘No thanks!’ to Tesla’s new battery

According to Bloomberg’s Tom Randall, SolarCity doesn’t think the new Tesla batteries are right for its solar-panel business.

“The new Tesla Powerwall home batteries come in two sizes—seven and 10 kilowatt hours (kWh)—but the differences extend beyond capacity to the chemistry of the batteries,” Randall wrote.

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May 6, 2015 | Solar Power poll illustrates industry’s desperation

The solar power industry claims a new poll it has commissioned shows Nevada voters will punish politicians who don’t expand solar power subsidies and mandates. Fortunately for American consumers and policymakers, the heavily promoted solar power poll indicates no such thing. Instead, the poll shows how desperate the solar power industry is to ramp up the expensive taxpayer subsidies that are necessary for the industry’s survival.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the solar power industry’s asserted number is true. Federal taxpayers – Nevadans included – pay a minimum of 30% of the tab for solar power projects. On top of that, Nevada taxpayers hand over millions of dollars in state-specific solar power subsidies – thanks to the Nevada legislature – and local subsidies as well. Despite all this, the left-of-center Brookings Institution reports every increment of solar power that replaces conventional power causes a tripling of electricity costs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports solar power costs anywhere from 300% to 500% the price of the most affordable conventional power.

Economists have quantified just how many jobs are destroyed by these higher electricity costs. Economists at Spain’s King Juan Carlos University found renewable energy programs kill 2.2 jobs throughout Spain’s economy for every 1 renewable energy job created.

Economists at the British economic consulting firm Verso Economics found renewable energy programs kill 3.7 jobs throughout the United Kingdom’s economy for every 1 renewable energy job created.

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Apr 30, 2015 | Florida solar battle heats up: Tea Party’s Debbie Dooley takes on Americans for Prosperity

“So the planet-savers try to disguise the cost difference through financing, hide 30 percent of the cost with a federal tax credit; hide 40 percent by letting solar generators freeload on utility infrastructure.” That’s what solar supporters are looking to do in Florida.– Jon Cassidy

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April 27, 2015 | Obama clean energy loans leave taxpayers in $2.2 billion hole

Taxpayers are on the hook for more than $2.2 billion in expected costs from the federal government’s energy loan guarantee programs, according to a new audit Monday that suggests the controversial projects may not pay for themselves, as officials had promised.

Nearly $1 billion in loans have already defaulted under the Energy Department program, which included the infamous Solyndra stimulus project and dozens of other green technology programs the Obama administration has approved, totaling nearly about $30 billion in taxpayer backing, the Government Accountability Office reported in its audit.

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April 15, 2015 | Surprised solar customers find themselves with liens

Jeff Leeds says installing SolarCity’s panels on the roof of his home in the Northern California city of El Granada was the sorriest day of his life.

Agreeing to the company’s 20-year lease was like partnering with the devil, he claims. He says he has endured skyrocketing electric bills, installation of an inferior system and contract violations because SolarCity refuses to clean the panels or to provide a payment for his system’s poor performance.

The latest surprise: a notice from his bank telling him that SolarCity had placed a lien on his home, and that his equity line of credit application could not proceed until the lien was removed.

“I was totally surprised by this and very pissed off,” Leeds said. “When I talked to the bank they told me it was a lien. I had to pay the bank a $48 fee for removal. They held me up from closing my loan to buy a vacation home so I had to borrow from another account. It cost me time in calls to both Wells Fargo and to SolarCity.”

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April 10, 2015 | FBI joins state probe into tax credits for university solar projects

The FBI has joined state investigators probing the award of $12 million in state tax credits to SolarCity Corp. and its investors last year after the company completed six solar arrays for the Oregon University System.

The Oregon Department of Justice launched criminal and civil investigations last month into the solar projects after The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that the projects should not have been eligible for state tax credits. The news organization found that project backers missed a key state deadline for beginning construction on the arrays, but submitted phony and misleading documents to the Oregon Department of Energy to mask that fact and maintain their eligibility for the subsidies.

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April 3, 2015 | White House combining push for solar energy with veteran training

The White House wants to put more returning servicemen and women to work manufacturing and installing solar panels, an effort President Barack Obama will add to his growing list of climate actions meant to combat global warming.

He visited an Air Force base outside Salt Lake City on Friday to highlight a new program that trains veterans to size and install solar panels on their military compounds, in the hopes of imparting skills applicable to a rapidly growing sector of the economy.

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March 31, 2015 | Solar panel companies deceive homeowners

New solar-leasing market industry has engaged in “deceptive marketing strategies” to sucker unsuspecting homeowners into misleading zero-money-down teaser loan deals.—Rep. Paul Gosar (R, AZ)

Some of these purchasers who are now struggling to sell their homes were not “fully aware of the terms of their 20- to 30-year leases” which will exceed the life of the roof the panels are mounted to.

Writing in Newsmax, Bradley Blakeman explained how the scam works, one where non-utility third-party contractors/installers approach homeowners and small businesses promising significant energy savings from rooftop solar systems with the enticement of a 20-year lease and little or no upfront installation and operation costs. The purported savings are based upon too-good-to-be-true inflated and unsupportable estimates of future utility rates.

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March 29, 2015 | Pulling the plug on renewable energy

The first renewable energy mandate was adopted in 1983, but most states did not impose these mandates until the 2000s. Though the details vary from state to state, in general, renewable energy mandates require utilities to provide a certain percentage of the electric power they supply from “renewable” sources, notably wind and solar, with the required percentages rising over time.

At the height of the renewable-energy mania, 30 states and the District of Columbia had imposed REMs and another seven had established voluntary standards.

For 50 years, green-energy gurus in industry and the environmental movement have sold the snake oil that renewable power would soon be as cheap and reliable as coal, oil, nuclear and natural gas. The nation has been told the turning point has always been just around the corner, always requiring a little more public funding and tax breaks before we have abundant, cheap, clean, reliable energy materializing from thin air.

All these promises were false, and the public and more-honest politicians have seen through the sales pitch. Now, support for renewables is as unreliable as the energy it provides.

To guarantee a market for renewables, green lobbyists fought successfully for mandates ensuring green-energy producers a slice of the electricity market regardless of the price and quality of the energy they produced.

Energy prices skyrocketed, as predicted by numerous energy analysts.

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March 11, 2015 | Solar Industry Fiascos Continue

Many Americans are familiar with federal, taxpayer-financed fiascos in the solar industry such as Solyndra and Abound Solar, but they are less familiar with state and local solar projects that have failed. Like federal fiascoes, these local fiascos have also wasted millions in tax money or bond debt that needs to be repaid. Taxpayers in three counties in New Jersey could be on the hook for up to $88 million in bonds that investors hold for a project to put solar panels on schools and other public buildings.[i] In Oregon, state officials wrongly awarded almost $12 million in state tax credits to a solar project based on phony documents. The Oregon project was also plagued by an international trade war, a bitter corporate rivalry and a labor shuffle that resulted in prison labor at 93 cents an hour being substituted for what was supposed to be high-paid Oregon jobs.[ii]

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March 8, 2015 | Latest BETC fiasco in state energy department calls for criminal investigation: Editorial

As detailed in a recent investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Ted Sickinger and Jeff Manning, energy staffers awarded nearly $12 million in tax credits to the Oregon University System’s solar-panel construction project despite not meeting BETC program qualifications. Not only did the project blow past a deadline to begin construction, but project managers covered it up with faked documents that energy staffers never vetted. Officials also looked the other way as the developer dumped one supplier, who employed Oregonians at high wages, in favor of another that relied on cheap prison labor.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect? This is not the first or second or even third time that Sickinger and other Oregonian reporters have documented the sloppy management and costly deficiencies of this program. Stories have highlighted multiple abuses of the BETC program since 2009 – energy staffers deliberately underestimating the program’s costs to win over more legislators and the awarding of three $10 million subsidies instead of just one to the Shepherds Flat wind farm,  to name just a couple. Yet the program, which has issued nearly $1.3 billion in tax credits, was not killed until last year while state justice and energy officials have balked at trying to revoke credits from some of the biggest offenders. Instead, taxpayers have borne the cost of the state’s mismanagement.

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March 5, 2015 | Harry Reid Secured Subsidies for Aides’ Donors

Corporate donors to a green energy nonprofit operated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D., Nev.) former staffers and a current campaign operative have received billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees and grant money as a result of Reid’s advocacy.

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March 4, 2015 | Oregon’s signature solar energy project built on false hopes, lies

For nearly $12 million in tax credits, state officials said, taxpayers could expect the project developer to buy local and hire local, creating a virtuous circle of energy savings, reduced greenhouse gases and jobs.

“An economy of innovation is within our reach,” Kitzhaber said, rewarding “efficiency rather than excess.”

Kitzhaber got the efficiency part right. The solar arrays fired up a year ago, generating even more power than expected at Oregon Institute of Technology and Oregon State University.

But those solar arrays rest on a foundation of falsehoods and false hopes, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

What they did have was access to Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit program – the most generous state incentive program in the nation. If the university system could get the array built, they could tap the program and leave Oregon taxpayers with half the cost.

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March 2, 2015 | Battle over solar panels warms up

Advocates of more rules, including traditional electric companies, point to instances in which third-party solar installers have signed unwitting customers to 20-year contracts that include an annual escalation in electricity rates higher than U.S. Energy Information Administration projections.

For example, Summerlin Energy told would-be customers that they would save money with the Las Vegas-based solar installer because power rates were due for a 10-percent increase each year. Historical EIA data show, however, a 2.3 percent bump between 1993 and 2013. It forecast a 2.1 percent yearly increase from 2014 to 2033.

Allegations of predatory pricing have trickled their way up to Congress, with several lawmakers pressing federal agencies about their ability to protect consumers.

Arizona has taken the lead. Democrats and Republicans from the state’s congressional delegation have questioned regulators about consumer protections. The Grand Canyon State’s attorney general in February settled with a solar firm for fraudulent claims about anticipated power rate increases, and state legislation has been filed on the issue. Washington state is also jumping into the fray. Lawmakers there have floated a trio of bills that would clarify that the state’s utility commission has the right to protect consumers regarding third-party solar leases.

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