Green Cronyism Hasn't Gone Anywhere

Back in the good old days of the Obama stimulus, green energy companies were looking for a boost direct from the federal government, in the form of straight-up financial subsidies to promote “green-collar jobs.”

Fast forward to 2015, and the terrain has changed some. We’ve seen that the stimulus was a bust. There was the Solyndra mess. Candidates less willing to hand out federal cash to green energy companies were overwhelmingly elected in 2014.

But one type of green energy has a new plan to get you to stimulate its producers: Solar.

In a bunch of places including ArizonaIndiana and Massachusetts, a debate is underway about whether/how much electricity company customers who generate power through solar panels they own and operate should pay for use of the electrical grid.

On the one hand, by generating energy, they take less out of it; on the other, they use the grid as a supplier rather than just as a customer because they feed electricity back in (and not always in a way that is optimal for the grid). So should they pay the same amount as the rest of us, who only take via the grid, less than the rest of us because they’re green and we want to promote being green, or more than the rest of us because they feed power into the grid, too, and should therefore pay more for its upkeep commensurate with use?

Because utilities are regulated, government gets a say in deciding. And Obama bundler Elon Musk wants government to give a boost to solar via net metering because, surprise, he is involved with a big solar company. The effort is a particularly big deal in Arizona, where the pro-solar group TUSK has attempted to position as conservative-friendly by bringing on paid advocates like Barry Goldwater, Jr, and where utilities want solar producers feeding electricity back into the grid to pay more than their regulator does, arguing that otherwise, average users who place no input burden on the system will be subsidizing the solar producers.

In other words, the solar industry seems to be arguing for a regulatory subsidy with financial implications for the public-at-large, despite the fact that the cost of solar panels (and therefore any prior rationale for subsidizing solar) has declined massively. Remember, also, that solar panels aren’t just being used by residential customers with ample rooftop space; they are being used by big businesses, so if the regulator gives solar producers an advantage here, they are not only benefiting solar power companies, they are also giving a handout to big businesses that already frequently benefit from cronyist policies to the disadvantage of the rest of us.

So as I’ve said over and over and even made a documentary about, socialism isn’t what we need to guard against. It’s cronyism.  And it’s rearing it’s big green ugly head again.