The solar industry has poured a startling amount of effort and funding into attempting to gain the legislative favor needed for it to survive.
Nationwide, the growth of the solar power industry is dependent on a combination of big-government mandates, tax credits and subsidies — making it the perfect target of wrath from limited-government, free-market and/or fiscally conservative individuals and policymakers.
In Louisiana, about 80 percent of the cost of solar installation is paid for through a combination of federal and state tax credits.
On April 6, discussing the state’s dramatic $1.6 billion budget shortfall, The Advocate aptly pointed out that the solar industry promises a “full-court press to protect” Louisiana’s generous tax credits that it says are “vital to its survival.” It cites state Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield, who called the solar tax credit’s cost to the state’s taxpayers “one of the fastest-growing. The solar credit cost $63.5 million in 2014, up from $9 million in 2013.” Plans to ratchet back — not remove — the tax credit, it reports, could save the state $57 million.
Facing the loss of the essential-to-survival tax credit, legislators have been besieged by solar supporters. Responding to those claiming to be “businessmen,” state Sen. Robert Adley says, “You are not a businessman. A real businessman has his own money at risk. With 80 percent of your costs coming from the taxpayers, you don’t depend on the market; you depend on the government.”
The solar industry is bringing Debbie Dooley to town. Part of the original tea party movement, she has since capitalized on the affiliation by claiming — as she did in her April 7 Facebook post crowing about “speaking directly after Al Gore” at an event in New York — that she is “advancing energy choice in a conservative way through free market competition.”
A power source that depends on big-government handouts of taxpayer dollars for “survival” doesn’t qualify as “conservative” or “free market.”
According to The Advocate, Dooley says: “conservatives want to champion free market choice and not let the government pick the winners and losers” — though that is exactly what the state’s solar subsidies do. No other industry receives $63.5 million of Louisiana taxpayer’s dollars in one year. Yes, the industry claims it has created 1200 jobs, which comes to almost $53,000 per job.
In defending the subsidies, solar supporters claim that the fossil fuel industry gets them, too. However, in 2013, the state’s oil and gas industry paid nearly $1.5 billion in state taxes and supports 64,669 direct jobs — not including indirect taxes and jobs. The petroleum industry gives; solar takes away.
As the Legislature looks at ways to fix the budget deficit, it is clear where cuts, rather than encouragement, should take place.
executive director, Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy
Albuquerque, New Mexico