Last May, Democrats in the Minnesota legislature doubled down on their silly love affair with expensive solar energy technology. They imposed a mandate on Minnesota that singles out the customers of large electric utilities and forces the utilities to produce 1.5 percent of their electricity output through solar technology by 2020. This is on top of the 25 percent renewable power mandate passed by the legislature several years ago.
In addition, in a bill supported only by Democrats, the legislature passed a new “Made in Minnesota” subsidy which mandates producers of electricity from certain solar installations be paid $500 per megawatt hour!
Members of the political left coupled this mandate with solar subsidies that will cost Minnesota ratepayers more than $175 million over the next 10 years.
Not since President Obama’s Solyndra boondoggle have we seen such a squandering of taxpayer dollars on solar energy.
Special Interest Groups Trump Science
For all the self-descriptions of being the “party of science,” Democrats in Minnesota and across the country have a very unscientific obsession with certain technologies based more on loyalty to influential environmental groups than concrete facts and economic realities. They choose to ignore or disregard the fact that most solar energy is too expensive—10 times more expensive per kilowatt hour than wind energy. Solar energy is also significantly more expensive than hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal, and natural gas—all of which are cleaner than the coal energy demonized by the scientifically illiterate left.
Higher Energy Costs
In spite of these realities, Minnesotans will be forced to foot the $175 million bill in an attempt by Democrats to prop up an economically unsustainable industry. In most cases, solar technology simply is not cost-effective enough for large-scale use and remains unaffordable for most families and businesses.
By forcing the companies that produce the vast majority of energy to invest in expensive and unproven solar technology, energy bills are rising. Many energy companies are already anticipating rate increases over the next several years.
Higher energy bills, coupled with the $2.4 billion tax increase passed in 2013 to fund new spending—including the solar subsidy program—will mean more money out of the pockets of Minnesotans across all income levels. This is a far cry from the “tax the rich” rhetoric we heard on the campaign trail in 2012.
Renewables Must Be Affordable
The so-called Green Energy Movement we’re seeing in Minnesota and across the country doesn’t care about the pocketbooks of taxpayers and ratepayers. The movement remains blindly devoted to ineffective and unproven technologies that benefit the left’s friends and special interests, content to let the average citizen pay more in the name of the “green” movement.
Democrats are quick to dismiss Republican opposition to the solar mandate as a partisan issue, and try to cast Republicans as radical opponents of “green” renewable energy technologies.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Republicans support renewable energy sources that are feasible and economically sound and don’t result in higher energy bills for families. The more we can do to shift our energy portfolio toward economically beneficial renewables, the better. But forcing expensive technology on the general public is a waste of money and unfairly forces people to pay more to light their homes.
Until solar technology can produce energy as reliably and efficiently as other renewable energy sources, this mandate should be repealed. Minnesotans are already paying more as a result of $2.4 billion in new taxes and fees that impact families of every income level. They don’t need another hike on their energy bills.
Rep. Pat Garofalo ([email protected]) is a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. He serves as the GOP Lead on the House Energy Policy Committee.