Rooftop solar — and the ability to produce your own energy without reliance on utilities — is obviously troubling to the incumbent utility industry. These companies have been trying to strangle solar in the crib for years now, as the technology combined with inexpensive batteries will eventually put them out of business.
But it’s precisely the upstart nature of the solar industry, and the choice it provides ratepayers, that is inspiring some unlikely allies. CNBC profiles Arizona’s Barry Goldwater, Jr., as well as other Tea Party activists and even evangelical leaders who strongly support renewable energy policies, especially rooftop solar:
As a conservative, Goldwater has become a vocal advocate for solar energy in recent years. He currently serves as the chairman of “Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed” (TUSK), a solar advocacy group that is pushing for energy independence across the country.
And he doesn’t think there is anything odd about being a political conservative who also challenges utility companies for the right to choose solar over traditional forms of power. In fact, he finds it to be the natural outcome of true political conservatism.
“We promote the conservative philosophy of free market, choice and competition, because as the cost of things go down, the quality goes up,” he said.
The “choice” argument is obviously very alluring to these activists, as are the benefits of decentralizing economic power and energy production to residents. But I’m not sure these anti-government conservatives realize that much of the recent solar “boom” is due to public subsidies and tax credits, both in the United States but also in countries like Germany, China, and Spain, which gave the industry the early push it needed to become cost-competitive with many fossil fuel energy sources.
But no point in quibbling over details, as solar energy will continue to need this kind of bipartisan support to establish its place among the incumbents.