Environmental conservation, climate change, and clean energy have traditionally generated deep political divides. As the consequences of climate change have increasingly become visible in cities, regions, and states throughout the country, elected leaders on both sides of the aisle are being forced to reconsider their positions—and to pursue climate action. One area that may prove to be a gateway issue for resistant officials is solar power.
Some mayors and elected office holders have been resistant to advancing climate solutions for fears that action could stymie their local economy, cost jobs, and is simply a risk not worth taking. However, there are three key elements that make solar power a political and environmental winner despite one’s political party:
- Jobs: Already, the solar industry employs twice as many individuals as the coal industry. These are stable, high paying jobs that can boost local economies. The need for a strong sales force and skilled workers to install solar infrastructure means that these jobs go to Americans, and will stay in America.
- Price: Panels today cost less, and generate more electricity than in the past—and the technology is continuely improving. This drives down the price of installation, and slashes the electricity bills for families and businesses.
- Choice: Traditionally, geography determined which utility supplier consumers would have access to. Residents and businesses were locked into the rates set by monopolistic suppliers. Solar allows choice. Consumers, communities, and businesses can decide to take generation into their own hands.
Mayors and community leaders of both parties must encourage residents and businesses in their communities to pursue investments in solar. Clean energy is a critical element of any comprehensive climate action plan. Clean energy is also good for communities. By decreasing electricity bills, providing stable, well paying jobs, and allowing consumers greater choice in the energy marketplace, solar is a winner for residents, municipal leaders, and the climate. For information on how to advance climate solutions in your community, visit Path to Positive Communities.
To many skeptics, particularly on the right, the spectacular failure of the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra in 2011, after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, demonstrated the industry’s shaky future and the danger of government efforts to subsidize it to success.
Fast forward to today. Solar energy prices have continued to fall rapidly, twice as many Americans work in the solar industry as in coal mining, and last year one-third of new electricity generation came from solar power.
Solar, long viewed through the lens of crony capitalism, has shown the ability to inject real market competition in energy distribution, one of the last monopolies in the energy sector, while improving the efficiency of the grid and putting more dollars in the pockets of middle-class Americans. Conservatives, in other words, need to take another look at solar.
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