In recent years, Harrisburg politicians decided that Pennsylvania would play venture capitalist in the solar energy market. In an attempt to attract green jobs, the Commonwealth extended more than $180 million in loans and grants to develop solar panel production. Subsidies were so successful in creating an artificial market that solar energy credits completely collapsed in value leaving a surplus of solar panels. A Republican representative has decided to sponsor legislation to salvage the solar industry through more subsidies. This legislation defies the principles of limited government and free markets. Additionally, the legislation is projected to increase costs for both energy consumers and taxpayers.
Clearly the government caused the boom and bust of the solar market. The push by the Republican lawmaker for increased government intervention in this arena is ill-advised. The considered legislation is anticipated to cost Pennsylvania energy consumers more than $3 billion over the next decade and will prove costly to the taxpayer as well. Interestingly, ideological roles seemed to be reversed as the Democratic committee chair stands in opposition to the plan for increased solar subsidies. Despite Gov. Corbett’s objections, the Republican’s legislation has garnered enough co-sponsors in the House to pass. The legislation requires utility companies to triple their use of solar power by 2013. Over the course of the next decade, Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act of 2004 requires that 18 percent of all energy sources from renewables.
The stringent mandates from the 2004 legislation and the current solar rescue package will be detrimental to the state’s already stagnate economy. The government sponsorship of solar and renewable energies diminishes the purchasing power of Pennsylvanians. Residential and commercial energy users will be coerced into paying more for their energy. The government is directly picking winners and losers in the economy as they buttress one sector at the expense of competing energy producers. Harrisburg’s mandates must be repealed as they are in opposition to free market competition which fosters innovation.
Providing more subsidies to fix an already distressed solar market is not the solution. There is another method to attract the green industry to Pennsylvania without imposing costly energy mandates on Keystone residents. By implementing policies to improve Pennsylvania’s business climate, policymakers can entice investment for not only green jobs, but all industries. Tax reform accompanied with a right-to-work law would be a catalyst to increase Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness.
The government must stop playing venture capitalist with taxpayer money. Pennsylvanians should be given the opportunity to utilize the most affordable energy source. The Commonwealth is very fortunate to have an immense amount of coal and natural gas. These natural resources need to be part of the state’s energy portfolio for the future. Tremendous innovations have already occurred in recent years regarding renewables. Improving Pennsylvania’s business climate utilizing a free market is the best way to develop green energy technology and stimulate the Keystone economy.