The Politics of Solar Power Homes


I recently came across this article in New York Times which got me thinking about the politics of Solar Power. Let’s face it. No matter how much people like you and me love Solar Power Homes, this is not going to take off without some federal government backing.

A survey by the Nuclear Power Industry discovered that people’s top choice for generating energy was solar. Not nuclear, coal or natural gas. However, at the same time solar just provided for less than 0.01 percent of America’s electric supply. Solar energy is popular, but alas, no money!

In Washington DC where the energy policies are made, the lobbyists for solar energy companies typically work with a budget of tens of thousands of dollars. Compare that with the tens of millions of dollars that the lobbyists for nuclear, coal, oil and gas industries have at their disposal, and you can make a pretty good guess as to what kind of energy policies will be made by our beloved politicians.

One only has to take a look at how government policies in Germany and Japan have helped boost solar power adoption into stratosphere. This government support has also helped lower manufacturing costs due to economies of scale, and also advance the solar technologies.

I know this idea of government intervention is very unpopular in USA, where most people believe that markets should be left alone to fend for themselves. But take a look at what that leading proponent of capitalism and free markets, a venture capitalist, has to say about this. Vinod Khosla is a partner at one of the world’s most prestigious VC firm, and a major investor in green technologies. According to him, “market-driven improvements are not happening fast enough to put solar technology beyond much more than a boutique investment”. Amen brother!

Despite all this cause for gloom, there are 3 dynamics in place which give me hope, no, even confidence that Solar Power Homes ’ time has come and that they will prevail.

1) Our president-elect Obama and his new administration is decidedly unfriendly to big oil and coal, and has made green technologies a priority. Additionally, the way our law makers work will also hopefully change for the better with new laws limiting the power and influence of lobbyists in the capital.

2) States like California and Hawaii are not waiting for Washington DC and have decided to take matters in their own hands. Governator Schwarzenegger’s “Million Roof” initiative is being promoted as not only creating a home-grown industry, but also creating thousands of jobs and at the same time reducing global warming.

3) Finally the individual Solar Power Homes dweller. All this would come to naught if people were not interested in solar power. As mentioned above, this is far from the case. People are not only interested, but they are also putting money where their mouth is. Even though it takes years to pay off initial investments in solar equipment, people still do it. Sometimes, even in cases when there is no pay off. Hats off to these pioneers. Let’s keep going solar, and keep supporting organizations and politicians who support green technologies!