There was an interesting bit of national news this week regarding a failure in prodigious government support for solar companies and green energy programs. Quoting from a Washington Times editorial …
“President Obama made a high-profile visit in May 2010 to Solyndra Inc., a solar-panel manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif. The company received $535 million in loans from the Energy Department and was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus effort. “Companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future,” Mr. Obama chirped. On Wednesday (8-31-11), Solyndra closed its corporate headquarters, announced that it’s filing for bankruptcy and laying off 1,100 workers.”
Relating the issue to Longmont, it reveals a smart decision in early 2010 by Mayor Baum and the newly elected conservative majority on City Council to put the brakes on city solar subsidies to homeowners at taxpayers expense.
The new Council went into the January 5, 2010 meeting with an agenda item to continue a partnership with the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) to provide solar system rebates to Longmont residential and commercial customers. The cost to the city would have been $150,000 to fund the Solar PV Rebate Program in 2010.
The Council funding motion failed by a 4 to 3 vote with Baum, Sammoury, Santos, and Witt voting no. It wasn’t so much that the Council majority was anti-solar, but more the argument that the payback to produce savings with these renewable energy systems is way too long. Plus, if there is a market for solar energy, let it stand on its own without government subsidies.
Things got heated the following week at Council Open Forum when Steve King, a Boulder solar installation company representative, riveted the Council in a long, argumentative fashion over the previous week’s decision not to fund rebates.
Mayor Baum had heard enough bashing of the city and finally put Mr. Solar in his place, much to the pot-to-kettle cries of “incivility” by the local progressive crowd. To his credit, Steve King apologized for his Open Forum public demeanor in an email read by Mayor Baum a couple of weeks later at a regular City Council meeting.
The bottom line here, as shown by this week’s Solyndra failure, is that when government intervenes with excessive mandates and subsidizing of new energy systems, it distorts the marketplace and doesn’t necessarily lead to the best solutions for either the public or private sectors.