April 23, 2013

The Financial and Social Truth About Solar Power

Solar Power has a bright future in our country and around the world according to PVSolarreport.com. Despite some media sources trying to confuse the public about the reliability and performance of solar power, the fact is solar is financially beneficial, highly reliable, and a stable source of energy. In addition, solar power creates thousands of jobs, and has widespread support.

First and foremost, solar makes financial sense. The days of prohibitively expensive solar are over with prices dropping over 30% in the past two years. Solar has also reached grid parity in many regions of the US and more are getting close to this energy equality. Sensible financing options are now widely available as well via loans and leases, allowing almost anyone to benefit immediately from installing a solar system on their home. Numerous businesses, schools, and government organizations are also enjoying the benefits of the solar energy cost reduction by installing their own solar systems and consequently lowering their operating costs.

Some arguments against solar suggest that it still needs subsidies to compete with fossil fuel sources, but in reality, coal, oil, and gas receive much more in government subsidies than renewable sources like solar. Oil and gas alone have received an average of $4.86 billion a year, while all renewable energy subsidies combined has averaged $0.37 billion a year, over 13 times less. Coal too, has been highly subsidized, receiving an estimated total of $345 billion in tax breaks, tax credits, and subsidies up to 2011. Around the world, a similar trend exists with a 2008 U.S. Energy report revealing that fossil fuels received $557 billion in global subsidies compared to renewable energy receiving only $43 billion in subsidies.

Some utilities also claim that customers investing in solar systems raises prices for other customers—but this is simply untrue. Residential solar installations benefit all utility customers, whether or not they have their own solar installations, because home solar keeps energy prices down by limiting the need for new transmission lines and the cost of meeting renewable energy mandates (every California utility is required to meet 33% of its energy demand with renewables by 2020). These residential installations also save the utilities on operating and investment costs, meaning everyone can benefit from residential solar installations.

Solar also has an advantage over fossil fuels because it does not have any externality costs. $120 billion were spent in the US last year on health costs related to fossil fuel pollution such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses. In addition, extreme weather caused by fossil fuel emissions, like Superstorm Sandy, have immense costs to US taxpayers. Beyond the emotional damages caused by this devastating storm, physical damages cost about $71 billion, while all extreme weather in the US between 2011 and 2012 cost Americans $188 billion.

Another significant benefit of solar installations is the amount of jobs they create to boost the American economy. When compared to the fossil fuel industry, solar creates more jobs per dollar invested. For every $1 million invested in natural gas, only 5 jobs are created. For coal, only 7 jobs are created. Whereas investment in the solar industry yields a substantial 14 jobs created, more than double the fossil fuel industry.

Overall, 119,000 Americans were employed in the solar industry in 2012. This number is the result of an employment growth rate of 13.2% in solar from the previous year, while the overall economy averaged a 2.3% employment growth rate during the same time. In addition, these numbers solely represent employees with installation jobs and do not account for thousands more employed in solar financing and software creation.

The future of solar power is bright. The sun is by far earth’s most abundant resource, and provides enough energy each day to power the United States for more than 10 years. Coal, oil, and gas put together cannot even come close to matching the sun’s power. Solar expansion is widely supported in the US, as a poll from September 2012 confirmed—with 92% of Americans polled supporting the development of more solar. Most of these Americans also said that the government should expand its support for solar with tax credits and other financial incentives.

While fossil fuel companies would like you to believe that solar is unreliable and not financially viable, the overarching truth is that solar is a great financial and environmental option.


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