Editor’s Note: A guest column from Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association.
The “us first” attitude of some in the solar industry has already proved damaging. By now, we’ve all heard about Solyndra, the solar company that lied about its financial future and swindled Americans out of more than $500 million in taxpayer funding before claiming bankruptcy and closing its doors. Closer to home, right here in Louisiana, a new report from the Public Service Commission says that state subsidies are now costing state taxpayers more than $40 million each year, a time when state budgets are under pressure and services for groups like seniors are under pressure.
Unfortunately for all us, the bad consequences don’t end there. Residential solar companies nationally are preying on vulnerable seniors to make a quick buck. Just this month, Going Green Solar pled guilty to bilking customers on the sale of energy systems that they promised would reduce utility bills. Sadly, this solar company targeted seniors, preying on their fears about power prices they were told would skyrocket. Another solar company, Stealth Solar, settled fraud claims for using deceptive telemarketing, bogus mailers, and untrue promises of savings and government subsidies. Louisiana has been spared such horror stories so far, but it’s doubtful seniors in this state won’t eventually face the same bad behavior.
Just like one of their own told us, the solar industry simply follows the money. They followed the money first to the federal government, where Americans footed the bill. Then, they followed the money to states like Louisiana, where well-intentioned policies to create solar jobs led to state subsidies that grew out of control. The Public Service Commission’s report called the state subsidy “the most generous of any state tax incentives currently allowed in the U.S.” Similarly, the state’s policy of repaying customers for their excess solar generation is even costing non-solar customers millions. Solar companies make money and a select few benefit, while everyone gets stuck with the bill.
Louisiana’s generous solar subsidies are costing taxpayers too much and are patently unfair, especially to those on fixed incomes such as seniors, including the more than 109,000 elderly my organization proudly represents in the Pelican state. Solar subsidies are weighing down the state’s budget and endangering other much-needed services. The truth is we can’t afford those subsidies any longer and it’s time for the feeding frenzy on state dollars to end. Let solar companies look to private investors to fund their operations. After all, they didn’t follow the sun to Louisiana; they followed the money.