Trump Should Deregulate Renewable Energy Instead of Subsidizing It

Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, February 23, 2017 | Go to article overview

Trump Should Deregulate Renewable Energy Instead of Subsidizing It


The Governor's Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, a bipartisan group of governors dedicated to developing solar and wind energy, sent a letter to President Trump earlier this month urging him to increase federal funding to modernize local power grids and expand clean energy research. They argue that these industries, particularly solar and wind, are crucial economic engines for poor, rural regions of the United States, and they must be supported by the federal government.

In addition to federal funding, the governors requested "options to modernize and streamline state and federal regulatory processes." If Trump wants to promote the energy industry, he should be encouraged by this bipartisan effort and begin removing the regulatory barriers to renewable energy. Right now, the technology exists for millions of Americans to access clean and affordable solar energy in their homes, but government regulations, many of which are interpreted by monopolistic utility companies, are holding back these cost-saving innovations.

Thanks to decreases in costs of solar technology, solar-based electricity is now cheaper than grid electricity in many parts of the country. Investment in solar technology makes sense for many businesses and wealthy homeowners, but for the average American, who moves more than 11 times in their lifetime, or the third who rent housing, an expensive long-term investment is not going to work.

A new technology known as plug-and-play solar systems may change the game. People can install them in a backyard with no training. These systems are affordable and portable, which is ideal for transient or renting individuals, and they tie into the electrical grid. They do not produce enough energy for an entire household, but the systems can greatly cut down on energy costs.

Unfortunately, government regulations at all levels of government are holding back the market for these innovative systems. These regulations take the form of price controls, licensing, zoning laws and other rules, all of which can be different at each level of government.

Since most regulations were instituted before modern inverters, which allow produced electricity to safely feed back to the grid, local utilities are responsible for interpreting them. As these companies have an incentive to retain their monopoly on energy generation, the legal barriers to generating energy from another source are often very high. Some utility companies have banned distributed power generation, like the plug-and-play systems, altogether.

A research group from Michigan Technological University found that there was no technical or safety rationale for these convoluted regulations. …

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