The conservative case for clean energy

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

There’s something odd about that headline, isn’t there? One shouldn’t have to make such a case, seeing as how “conservative” and “conservation” derive from the same root.

But our modern politics are sufficiently strange that the case must be made — and increasingly, more conservatives are prepared to make it.

They did so this morning over at the convention center Hilton, at a breakfast co-sponsored by the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions out of Washington.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

The program started with a brief keynote by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent (and formerly of RedState), who came to say, “We conservatives don’t have to be afraid of clean energy.” Mind you, “We don’t need to subsidize it” the way he says folks on the left want to do — it’s more about getting out of the way and letting markets do the job.

The main thing standing in the way of that is the owners of the current infrastructure. Erickson, who lives in Macon, says he keeps hearing from Georgia Power, telling him that solar might burn his house down, and anyway, it’s not efficient — it doesn’t work on a cloudy day.

“Why are you so scared of it, then?,” he asks.

After Erickson sat down, Matt Moore — new head of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former chairman of the S.C. GOP — gave out awards to some conservative friend of clean energy, including my own Rep. Micah Caskey. Others recognized were Rep. Nathan Ballentine, and Sen. Greg Gregory.

Gregory got credit for passage of Act 236 in 2014 — the legislation that allowed net metering in South Carolina. Which was a start toward putting solar on a firm footing in the state.

But the main order of 2018 for these organizations is repealing a problematic provision of that legislation — a 2 percent cap on the amount of energy allowed to be generated by solar, something the utilities insisted on in 2014.

So we heard a lot, during a panel discussion featuring Ballentine and three others and chaired by Moore, about H. 4421, which would remove that cap and let solar compete freely — an idea suddenly quite popular, with SCANA and Santee Cooper in the political doghouse.

We’re getting close to that 2 percent cap, which Ballentine said would cause the disappearance of 3,000 jobs in South Carolina in the installation business (also represented on the panel). That’s one of the reasons he’s for lifting the cap.

He praised H. 4421, saying how good it is to see a “bipartisan effort” behind it.

And it does have bipartisan support. What Nathan did not say, with so many Republicans in the room, is that the bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. James Smith. He was concerned, apparently, that some in his party might oppose it just to keep James from having a big win when he’s running for governor.

Which would be really petty of them, but that’s the state of party politics in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and eighteen. For some people, anyway.

Frankly, I’m having trouble imagining any good reason why anyone would oppose such commonsense legislation. Maybe you can think of one, but I can’t.

The bill is supposed to come up in subcommittee again Thursday…

the room

6 thoughts on “The conservative case for clean energy

  1. Norm Ivey

    The 2% cap was a stupid rule from the beginning. If I remember correctly, several conservation groups supported the solar bill even with the cap in 2014. They took the stance that the cap would eventually have to be lifted, so maybe that’s coming to fruition.

    There’s certainly been a boost in solar in SC. I’m seeing more homes with panels on the roof now. I’m concerned about the new tariff on panels made outside the US. If the panels get too expensive, expansion might slow down and cost jobs. I’d rather see a little more subsidies for US manufacturers instead.

  2. Harry Harris

    Tesla (Solar City) in Australia is planning to replace building a generating plant by linking a large bunch (50 thousand)of houses with solar panels and storage batteries as opposed to a big field of solar arrays. Interesting concept in which the homeowner may receive “free” solar savings and the funders (perhaps Tesla) will get the revenue..

  3. Bob Amundson

    The 2% cap is way too low, but (for now, until battery storage capacity increases) a cap is necessary due to demand shifting. Germany is in the midst of an interesting experiment in maximizing the use of renewable energy sources. They’ve actually had some days when nearly 90% of their energy needs are met by renewables. However, there needs to be non-renewable power sources available to fill in renewable gaps.

    After years of declines, Germany’s carbon emissions rose slightly in 2015, largely because the country produces much more electricity than it needs. That’s happening because even if there are times when renewables can supply nearly all of the electricity on the grid, the variability of those sources forces Germany to keep other power plants running. And in Germany, which is phasing out its nuclear plants, those other plants primarily burn dirty coal.

  4. Mark Stewart

    The cap should be on coal generation, not solar. Both Scana and Santee Cooper need to mothball those old, polluting plants. Solar isn’t the only answer; but in a state like SC it does offer a lot of clean energy generation possibilities.

    It’s too bad both so completely screwed up the new nuclear plants (and Westinghouse as well) because they would have been an excellent compliment to a large-scale solar generating capacity in SC.


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