The sun, a constant throughout our history, holds the key to a more sustainable future.
Solar energy is growing, renewable and more popular than ever.
There is enough solar energy in Missouri to power 15,000 homes, and $50 million was invested on solar installations in 2015 alone. Missouri homeowners with Power-Purchase Agreements, the most popular form of third-party solar, save an average of $94 a year. This is estimated to grow to a total savings of $3,138 over 20 years. Solar also provides other financial benefits, including tax breaks associated with loans for the panels.
In addition, solar creates local jobs. In 2015, solar employed 1,854 Missourians. The median wage for a U.S solar installer was $21 an hour last year, meaning the expansion of solar creates high-paying jobs for Missourians.
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There is more to solar than just monetary paybacks, though. It is also a clean, sustainable source of power.
Environmentally, solar power reduces the need for harmful fossil fuels and cuts pollution that science shows causes climate change. In Missouri, we already see the effects of climate change in increased air pollution, heatwaves and flooding.
Civically, solar power fosters engagement between decision-makers and energy stakeholders, from homeowners to school principals and small-business owners, creating more invested parties in the future of clean energy in Missouri.
Solar energy saves Missourians money, gives us power and helps save the planet.
All of these benefits mean that solar power is tremendously popular, even across the political spectrum. Recent polls show bipartisan support for more clean solar.
So why is our country not getting more energy from the sun?
As solar power has grown, it has been attacked by incumbent energy interests who see it as an existential threat to their bottom line.
A new report by Environment Missouri Research and Policy Center called “Blocking the Sun” documents “17 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities running some of the most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy” throughout the country.
Rather than value the full benefits of distributed solar energy, these utilities and their fossil fuel backers have attempted to cut credits to solar customers and charge them extra fees. In some states, they have even attempted to do away with renewable energy standards altogether.
In mid-2016, there were at least 84 ongoing policy actions in U.S. states that could impact the growth of solar energy, including limitations to net metering or new charges to make rooftop solar power less economically viable.
In Missouri, renewable energy has faced many road-blocks. Prop C, a 2008 ballot initiative to increase usage of renewable energy annually until it reached 15 percent, passed with a two-thirds majority. Yet regulated utilities fought against Prop C, and a joint legislative panel removed two important clauses when implementing the mandate in 2010, curbing renewable energy growth. The Missouri Supreme Court is currently ruling on whether state lawmakers interfered unconstitutionally with the renewable energy mandate. Solar energy is being targeted in Missouri and all across the country.
With all the advantages of solar energy, we can’t just turn our backs on tapping the power of the sun or maintain a status quo of coal, oil, gas and nuclear power that threatens our environment and our health. Gov.-elect Eric Greitens must stand up for solar and push back against attempts to stunt the growth of renewable energy, next year and beyond.
Taylor Hale is a campaign organizer for Environment Missouri, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization that is fighting for solutions to global warming.