As solar power becomes cheaper and more widely implemented, utility companies across the country are feeling the squeeze. And they’re fighting back with local taxes and user fees to recoup some of their losses.
The most recent cases in Wisconsin and Utah involve private, individual solar power grids that are running on a net metered basis—excess electricity from solar power is available to local neighbors in a grid. In other words, net metered houses are using less electricity than they are able to collect in solar power, so they end up paying nothing to local power companies for electricity.
Local power companies want to change this by charging solar power customers a “usage fee.” Solar power activists claim this “sun tax” discourages solar power. They believe that utilities companies save money with solar power, and therefore it is not financially reasonable to discourage solar power with additional taxes and fees:
“There is a tremendous urgency to reduce carbon emissions. Distributed solar energy is the main growth area for renewable energy. To strangle it in the crib would be doing a tremendous disservice to the people in Utah and around the country,” said Casey Roberts, an attorney for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
According to a Sierra Club analysis . . . Utah’s current net metered customers save the utility $1.4 million a year, mostly in the form of avoiding costs associated with power generation.
Assuming a 6.8 percent annual growth rate, the analysis concludes such solar installations will save the utility nearly $140 million in costs through 2040, while generating nearly 2 gigawatts of clean power and keeping 20.5 metric tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
Conservatives should not reject solar power merely because of its connection to global warming alarmists and liberal environmentalism. Privately collected solar power and other methods of local sustainable energy collection would be good for the United States on many levels—it would put power (literally) back in the hands of local citizens; it would work toward freeing the United States a little more from the international entanglements connected to foreign oil; it could help to encourage greater and more extensive innovations in cheap, effective energy alternatives; and it would make oil cheaper for those who will still need it—businesses transporting goods cross-country, manufacturing companies, etc.
Further, there is no reason for conservatives to favor additional taxes of any kind. Already, the civil government looks for every opportunity to gain a quick buck. This is just the latest trend. From an internet tax to a solar power tax, the civil government is constantly stretching its octopoid tentacles into new, formerly free, arenas. We should fight this at every turn.