Without Government Backing, Solar Power Can’t Compete

The government is going to pull the plug on the solarindustry’s key tax credit as evidence mountsthat the often touted renewable source cannot compete withtraditional energy.

“Solar power’s value as a grid resourceis limited because we simply can’t count on it to meet peakdemand in the evenings,†Travis Fischer, economist atthe Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller NewsFoundation. “In fact, solar power could causemajor problems if implemented on a wide scale due to itsdaytime-only production profile.â€

Solar power has been on the rise in the U.S. and is often toutedas the technology of the future, but the industry relies heavily ongovernment incentives due to the costly installation of panels.Solar power also faces criticism due to its unreliability duringthe power grid’s peak demand hours.

The 30 percent investment tax credit for solar power will expireat the end of 2016, threatening the long term future of theindustry. The solar industry has been expanding in the U.S. withinstallations up 30 percent on the year, according to The WallStreet Journal. But critics warn that much of this success is dueto government efforts to pick winners and losers in energy and castsolar power as an updated and modern technology.

“Advocates like to leave the impression thatsolar power is an exciting, new technology with a limitless future.In reality, solar power is not new–photovoltaic solar panelsdate back to 1883,†said Fischer.

Experts warn that ending the subsidy will devastate solar powerand could cost the industry thousands of jobs.Bloomberg estimates a two-thirds drop in solar instillations in2017 if the credit expires, reports The Wall Street Journal.According to Energy Information Administration data,rooftop instillations could plummet 94 percent while utility scaleprojects could drop by 100 percent.

Given solar power’s expense many remaincritical, questioning the wisdom of government subsidies for thetechnology. It also caters to the more affluent, with solar panelson less than 5 percent of homes with incomes under $40,000.Household solar panel systems can cost over $20,000 and the averagesolar equipped house is 34percent larger than non-solar houses, reports the PittsburghPost-Gazette.

Some industry experts believe solar energy can and should standon its own in the energy market, arguing that it has becomecommercially viable. A recent study from Bloomberg shows that evenwithout the tax credit, solarcapacity is on pace to rise by 2022, reports TheWall Street Journal. With only 0.4 percent of U.S. electricitycoming from solarpower in 2014 however, experts question its overall importanceto America’s energy future.

“Despite being heavily subsidized by handoutslike the investment tax credit, solar power still makes up only asmall fraction of the electricity we need to keep the lightson,†said Fischer.

Overall the solar industry has been struggling, with energystocks getting decimated in 2015. Elon Musk’ssolar energy company SolarCity made headlines last week when theysaid they were trying to reducethe credit rating needed to buy their panels in anattempt to lure buyers. Advocates for solar subsidies will continueto lobby Congress to extend the investment tax credit before itexpires in 2017.

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