Monday, June 29, 2009

What Does Big Solar Want? What Doesn't It Want?

GreenBiz's Marc Gunther via Reuters:
Ordinarily, when an industry comes to Washington to seek special favors from the government, it hires a lobbyist or two, meets with members of Congress, perhaps quietly donates some money to the right committee chair -- but rarely does it hold a press conference to talk about why it wants to be given a leg up over the competition.
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That's what made a solar-industry breakfast, hosted this week by Dow Corning, so interesting. Dow Corning, a major supplier to the solar industry, and its allies, including Abengoa Solar, BP Solar, Kyocera, Sanyo and Schott, put forth a long list of federal policies that they would like to see enacted to give solar power a jump-start and bring it to scale.

What do they want? A permanent manufacturing tax credit. Renewable Electricity Standards, with set-asides for solar, which would require utilities to buy a fixed percentage of their electricity from solar plants. So-called feed-in tariffs, which require utility companies to buy "clean energy" at prices higher than average wholesale prices. Federal support for training workers and educating the public about solar. Loan guarantees. Requirements that federal agencies buy more renewable power for their own operations. Treasury grants of some sort. (See this press release for details.)

All this, of course, on top of either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gases and put a price on carbon emissions– -- a policy that makes good sense, because it will capture the external costs of burning fossil fuels. Of course, a cap-and-trade scheme would also benefit low-carbon energy sources like solar.

Well, at least the industry is transparent. Not to mention brazen.

"Solar energy is a clean, efficient and readily available technology that with the right support could help transform America's energy, environmental and economic future," says Stephanie Burns, the chairman, president and CEO of Dow Corning, a $5.5 billion (revenues) company based in Midland, Michigan, that's is jointly owned by Dow Chemical and Corning.

Please don't misunderstand me. I would love to see the solar industry thrive. And Dow Corning deserves enormous credit for investing about $5 billion in manufacturing plants in Michigan -- which sorely needs new jobs -- as well as Tennessee and South Korea. "We think solar is ready to go to scale," Burns says. "We're right at the cusp for that to happen."

The question is, at what cost? If solar is, indeed, a practical solution to the climate crisis, and if Dow Corning has already shown itself willing to put up $5 billion of its own money, why does solar need so many special favors?>>>MORE
In an update Marc mentions a link to AltEnergyStocks. I'm guessing this is the missing link.
[amazing. memory like an elephant -ed]