Yesterday, I appeared live on Fox’s Varney & Co to discuss volatility in the solar industry market. I urged viewers to take the long view in measuring solar’s critical role in America’s energy system. I noted that a few solar industry bankruptcies (Solar Millennium, Energy Conversion Devices, Solyndra) stem from the shakeout caused by continued cheap Chinese solar manufacturing that’s flooded the market (“the prices of solar modules, or panels, fell 50 percent
last year, largely as a result of the cheap Chinese imports“) at the same time that European countries are pulling back demand-based subsidies. Coupled with no coherent domestic regulatory or incentive structure to promote solar consumption here at home (and with continued flat-lining electricity demand in general), weaker solar manufactures are falling by the wayside, leaving deep-pocketed, superior businesses to remain. Those interpreting solar market volatility as a sign that it isn’t ready for prime time are wrong. Out of chaos comes great opportunity, and, ultimately, a stronger manufacturing market. The question isn’t whether solar will be a part of our energy mix, it’s whether U.S. manufacturers will be.
At the conclusion of the Fox debate, the anchors continued the discussion for a few minutes after I left. During this time, the female Fox anchor said (beginning at 4:32 of the video linked to this blog post image) that Solar Trust (and its parent, Solar Millennium) were the recipient of a “$2.1 billion” Obama-directed taxpayer loan. Which is 100% false. Solar Trust turned down the government’s $2.1 billion offer in August 2011, mainly because the government places such onerous restrictions on the recipient. I assume Fox will issue a public correction.
Fox also criticized my claim that solar could represent 5-10% of our electricity supply by 2022, given the appropriate regulatory framework (national carbon price, federal feed-in tariff, coherent and firm EPA emission rules, etc). This is in line with the government’s SunShot report that predicts, “solar energy meeting 14% of U.S. electricity needs by 2030“.
As I’ve said before, loan guarantees are an awful way to promote renewables - we are a consumption-based economy, and we need to stimulate renewable energy demand – U.S. manufacturers will follow.
Tyson Slocum directs Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @tysonslocum