Policy Documents

The Leaflet - Is it Sunrise or Sunset for Solar Power?

February 28, 2014

Is it Sunrise or Sunset for Solar Power?

 
During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama singled out solar power as the flagship source of renewable energy, a source currently responsible for only 0.2 percent of the nation’s energy production. Despite federal and state governments subsidizing and even mandating its use, solar power faces significant barriers blocking it from becoming a competitive energy source.
 
Heartland Senior Fellow James M. Taylor points out, “university economists and the U.S. Energy Information Administration document that solar power costs are currently several times higher than conventional power costs and will continue to be more than triple the cost of conventional energy – even under best-case solar power scenarios – for at least the next several decades.”
 
Consumers who live in states that have adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards or “renewable power mandates” are keenly aware of the increase in electricity costs caused by expanded solar energy production. At least a dozen of the 29 states that arbitrarily mandate the use of certain percentages of renewable energy are looking at rolling back those mandates.
 
Another policy related to solar power is net-metering, which allows homes with solar panels to sell unused power back to the utilities. According to the Council on State Governments, 43 states currently have net-metering policies, many of which set the sell-back rate at the retail rather than wholesale price. This inevitably drives up the price of electricity for homes without solar panels.
 
Policymakers should not attempt to pick winners and losers. Instead, they should focus on rolling back policies that mandate the use of or subsidize any form of energy over another.

Energy & Environment

After President Barack Obama touted the growth of solar power in his recent State of the Union address – and snubbed all other renewable energy sources – solar has emerged as the latest renewable trend popping up in state legislatures, according to the National Conference for State Legislatures. In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Taylor Smith says solar is just another in a long line of over-hyped, over-subsidized energy sources that never pan out. Read More
 
Health Care
 
In September 2013, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett released a proposed reform to Medicaid that would accept federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program by around 500,000 individuals and move them into the Obamacare federal health insurance exchange. Like several other programs now being considered in other states, Corbett’s proposal, known as “Healthy PA,” emulates Arkansas’ premium assistance model. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans argues that like the Arkansas “private option,” Healthy PA has several shortcomings. Despite the private-market feel of the program, it still represents an expansion of Medicaid. Read More
 
Budget & Tax
 
Kentucky legislators are now considering a bill, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, that would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over a three-year period. Kentucky’s current minimum wage is equal to the federal minimum wage and competitive with all of its neighboring states. A minimum wage of $10.10 would be far higher than those of Kentucky’s neighbors—the proposed rate is even higher than those now being considered in Illinois and Michigan ($10.00 and $9.50 respectively). In this Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans argues increasing the legal minimum wage is not an effective method of addressing poverty and would harm workers by creating barriers to entry for less-skilled and less-educated people. Read More
 
Telecom
In an article re-published at the Heartlander digital magazine and originally in the Daily Caller, Scott Cleland argues municipal broadband systems are overbuilding broadband networks, actively opposing private broadband providers, and undermining competition. Read More
 
Education
 
Most young Olympic athletes take advantage of online learning opportunities when they need to complete high school or college credits while also staying on top of demanding training regimens. Research Fellow Joy Pullmann opines in the Washington Examiner that such opportunities could benefit non-Olympic American students if a few onerous laws were changed. Read More

From Our Free-Market Friends
 
Governments have been looking at various ways to help encourage the expansion of broadband to rural areas. This new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) outlines three reforms that can help. “This report comes in response to state legislators’ requests for proven ideas to foster more economic growth through technology and improve public safety in the wake of natural disasters,” said John Stephenson, director of the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology. Read More
 

The February issue of Environment & Climate News reports the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled EPA acted properly when it imposed and then later withdrew restrictions on fracking operations near two Texas water wells.

Budget & Tax News

School Reform News