Does Solar’s Boom Have to Cost the American Poor?

Does Solar’s Boom Have to Cost the American Poor?


When Barack Obama was campaigning our energy future was always priority. Upon taking office that did not change. Via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, many of Obama’s energy initiatives were undertaken, specifically those that involved the growth of the clean energy sector. The recovery act included more than $70 billion in tax credits and direct spending for programs involving clean energy.

Along the way there have been notable failures, like Solyndra, but seven years into his presidency solar is booming.  In fact in the past decade, the amount of solar power produced in the United States has leaped 139,000 percent. This has had an impact on jobs too. Since 2010 solar industry jobs have increased by 50% and solar workers outnumber coal miners 2 to 1. The cost to put up solar panels has also come down. Venture capital funding for solar in 2013 was $126 million. In the first quarter alone of 2014 investment reached $251 million.  Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps nearly $15 billion a year into our economy.  Proof that solar is here to stay are the significant investments traditional energy providers are making in solar generation as well. Truth is, the solar industry outlook is nothing but bright.

Why then, does the Obama administration continue to financially support this industry with tax-payer money?  It is no longer burgeoning and by the numbers is more than capable of raising its own funds. Why then are policies like net energy metering allowed to proliferate unchecked when they hurt the American people who can’t afford install solar panels?

Americans who do not own their homes, have less income and poor credit scores do not qualify for solar panels. The issue is that their wealthier neighbors who do qualify, not only receive credits for the extra energy they produce via their solar panels and sell back to utility companies, but they do not pay for the maintenance fees associated with the energy grid they rely on when solar isn’t an option (rainy days, cloudy days, nighttime, etc). Instead the maintenance fees they do not pay are absorbed by those too poor to join the solar revolution.

While net metering policies have no doubt encouraged many to go green, we are left wondering if the President has co-signed on the negative impact these policies have on poor Americans who can’t afford to join the movement. If the President and administration wants to encourage the expansion of solar energy why not pass the savings/incentives on to the people directly instead of trusting corporations to pass the savings on to potential customers.


  1. I was leaving Home Depot the other day and the Solar City sales person stopped everyone but me when they left. Everyone else was white. I’m Hispanic. If they don’t want my business, then I definitely don’t want to subsidize their energy savings.