Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Future's So Bright

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Future's So Bright

Article excerpt

EARLIER THIS YEAR, 14 solar panels were installed on my roof. Each day since-in fact, multiple limes a day-I've eagerly checked our online meters, as the sun replaces coal and nuclear plants as the provider of my home's electrical needs.

I've waited a long t ime for this. I attended my first energy conference in the late 19705, when I joined several other students from the hunger action group at our Jesuit college, Seattle U., for the 20-hour van ride 10 Denver-even then, the connection between poverty and energy issues was clear.

That conference was one of several conducted by the U.S. Catholic bishops to gather input for what became a major and still-relevant document published in 1981 under the unassuming name "Reflections on the Energy Crisis." The statement noted that "solar power can help open the way to permanent energy security, pointing beyond the end of fossil fuels."

So last summer I was thrilled to sign a contract with a company called SolarCity, which installed the solar panels on my rooftop under a lease arrangement-they own the panels, and I buy solar power from them whenever the sun shines. And there's sure a lot of sunshine to tap: Every hour of daylight on earth, the sun releases the amount of energy consumed by the entire population of the planet in one year.

ENERGY INDUSTRY deregulation over the past two decades made possible the emergence of new clean-energy companies like SolarCity. But it has come with quite a cost to consumers. For example, a report released in December by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power fou nd that Texans have paid an extra $10.4 billion for electricity under deregulation.

Around the country, deregulation-which the Bush administration and groups like Enron claimed would lead to lower energy prices because of "free-market" competition-has led to similar increases; the rise in Texas' prices is around the national average. The report noted that deregulated sectors saw greater price increases than still-regulated rural electric co-ops and city-owned utilities. And, of course, it's harder to control the negative environmental practices of deregulated energy suppliers.

Nonetheless, for now at least, a deregulated energy world is the one we live in. And it's helped make residential solar a viable option for thousands so far- and potentially for millions in the near future. …

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