Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s plan to install half a billion solar panels by the end of her prospective first term will increase electricity prices for American families, according to a study by the free market Institute for Energy Research (IER).
Researchers found Clinton’s plan would increase power price through expanding a solar subsidy, called net metering, which forces utilities to buy the electricity produced by rooftop solar panels often at two to six times the market price. Net metering also forces people who don’t own rooftop solar panels to pay more to maintain the grid.
IER’s findings closely mirror those of a 2015 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that found rooftop solar subsides increase costs and the business model isn’t viable without government support.
“Hillary Clinton has gone all in on solar, so it’s important that we examine what sort of impact that will have on energy costs,” Chris Warren, a spokesperson for IER, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Solar power is expensive and its inherent unreliability issues impose additional costs on the grid, which leads to higher electricity bills. In fact, the costs imposed by solar increase when more is added.”
Clinton would greatly expand solar power’s federal investment tax credit and net metering to build “half a billion” solar panels by 2020. Clinton’s plan calls for the entire nation to run “entirely on clean energy by midcentury,” with a goal of “getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade.” Last year, wind and solar power only accounted for 4.7 and 0.6 percent of all electricity generated in America respectively, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Solar subsidies hurt the poor and ethnic minorities most because more impoverished people tend to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on basic needs like energy. As essential goods like electricity become more expensive, the cost of producing goods and services that use electricity increases, effectively raising the price of almost everything. Policies like net metering hurt the poor 1.4 to four times more than they hurt the rich, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“As this report shows, net metering programs at the state level shift the additional costs of rooftop solar from wealthy rooftop solar users to poorer Americans,” Warren said. “Think of it as a reverse Robin Hood scheme.”
State commissions have found that net metering solar subsidies are not in the public interest because they harm the poor by increasing the price of electricity and transfer money from poor people without solar panels to rich people with them.
“With these subsidies in place, Hillary Clinton’s solar plan would amplify the problems and stick Americans with higher energy prices, which would have the harshest impact on low-income Americans,” Warren said.
Solar and wind power get 326 and 69 times more, respectively, in subsidies than coal, oil, and natural gas per amount of energy generated, according to 2013 Department of Energy data collected by Forbes.
Most solar subsidies go to residential installations and includes a 30 percent federal tax credit, while wind is usually industrial scale and is thus somewhat more efficient per dollar spent. Solar-leasing companies install rooftop systems, which cost a minimum of $10,000, at no upfront cost to the consumer. Companies do this because the state and federal subsidies are so massive that such behavior is actually profitable, as solar companies simply cannot compete without government support.
Green energy in the U.S. got $13 billion in subsidies during 2013, compared to $3.4 billion in subsidies for conventional sources and $1.7 billion for nuclear according to data from the EIA.
Last year, wind and solar power only accounted for 4.7 and 0.6 percent of all electricity generated in America respectively, according to data from the EIA. Wind power provided substantially more electricity than solar, but has grown at a slow rate.
The average American’s electric bill has gone up 10 percent since President Barack Obama was inaugurated due in part to regulations imposed to financially support solar.
Power prices are rising even though the cost of generating electricity is at a record low thanks to America’s new natural gas supplies created by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This cost reduction hasn’t translated into lower monthly payments for consumers due to new regulations.
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