Solar Initiative

SELC is striving to break down policy barriers in order to make solar accessible to all consumers and businesses.

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Fact-checking DOE Secretary Rick Perry’s renewable energy inquiry More »

At the request of Secretary Rick Perry, the Department of Energy is slated to release an analysis this month looking at the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid. But, rather than acknowledging changing market forces, the role of clean energy in strengthening the grid, and the growth of the clean energy economy, Perry’s inquiry appears to be framed to lay the groundwork for attacks on clean energy to appease fossil fuel special interests.

Last week, SELC sent a letter, along with 20 groups throughout the South, urging Perry to do a full and fair review of renewable energy and grid reliability. SELC also created a fact sheet to provide a real sense of the robust clean energy economy in the South.

As outlined in a memo directing his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack to conduct the 60-day inquiry, Perry’s premise is that regulatory burdens on “baseload” power resources (coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric), and federal subsidies for renewables are creating problems for maintaining the reliability of the grid.

This stands in stark contrast to Perry’s view of renewable energy as a smart investment during his tenure as governor of Texas. Under his leadership, Texas led the way in renewable energy, producing more wind energy than the next three states combined, and Georgetown, Texas has recently become one of the first cities in the country to be entirely powered by solar and wind energy – a decision that has brought the city millions of dollars in new investments.

Another concern regarding the objectivity of the analysis: The DOE staffers charged with conducting it have a track record of bias against clean energy.

DOE Chief of Staff McCormack most recently worked at Edison Electric Institute (EEI), where he coordinated efforts to impose fees and roll back compensation for rooftop solar owners. Travis Fisher, a political appointee at DOE, previously worked for the Koch Brothers-funded Institute for Energy Research and American Energy Alliance where he made comments lamenting tax credits for wind and solar. Daniel Simmons, tapped to lead DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has falsely claimed that higher levels of wind and solar power raise domestic prices.

In fact:

  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN OUR ECONOMY: Across the Southeast, solar jobs are growing – with over 20,000 jobs in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama.
  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY: The U.S. military plans for 25 percent of the military’s energy production to come from renewables by 2025 and bases in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina have all gone solar due to energy independence and security concerns.
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY HAS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT: Republican state officials have long championed their states’ clean energy investments, including former South Carolina governor and current United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s praise of a landmark 2015 bill that opened up South Carolina to more solar power.
  • RESEARCH SHOWS THE U.S. HAS MUCH MORE CAPACITY FOR RENEWABLES: A two-year analysis from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) found renewable energy can reliably meet up to 80 percent of U.S. electric demand in 2050 with modest improvements to the flexibility of the grid.

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Harnessing the South's Bountiful Sunshine

Despite the South’s abundant sunshine, solar energy is a vastly underutilized resource across the region. Recent developments, however, suggest that state policy makers and utility commissions are beginning to recognize the valuable role of solar energy in meeting the region’s electricity demand. SELC’s new initiative was launched to capitalize on this momentum and to help the Southeast reap the many benefits of solar power—including the many new jobs solar can deliver to our region—and reduce our dependence on outdated fossil fuels. Of all the renewable energy sources available today, solar power combines the greatest raw potential with the smallest environmental footprint. 

Overcoming the Barriers

Despite growing recognition of the affordability, value and importance of solar energy resources, there are significant obstacles to achieving the South’s full solar power potential. 

Utility Monopolies. Most of our states have no policies to require utilities to use renewable energy like solar. Many do have laws that are interpreted in ways that make it difficult for non-utility solar installers to offer common sense financing options to Southerners, which keeps these solar entrepreneurs from bringing jobs and clean energy to our region. These laws need to be clarified to give businesses and residents in the South the freedom of solar choice.

Utilities Taxing Solar Power. Even as solar energy has come down in price, many utilities are actually trying to make solar investments more expensive for their customers. In fact, some utilities want to charge households and businesses through punitive fees and charges for attempting to use solar power. These utilities ignore the significant benefits that solar energy provides to utilities and to all Southerners. SELC fights for consumers’ solar rights across the region, using the power of the law to ensure fair treatment for every home and business that goes solar. Read SELC’s Solar Bill of Rights.

Solar For All. Even though solar power is coming down in price, it is still out of reach for many Southerners, including renters, those with shaded lots, and low and moderate income customers. Our solar initiative is advocating new ways to make solar accessible to all Southerners, such as Community Solar programs that allow customers to participate in a solar project in their community and get credit on their utility bills.

SELC’s solar initiative focuses on removing these barriers so that solar energy will be widely available to consumers and businesses across the region, as well as highlighting the many ways solar benefits families, communities, and businesses in the Southeast.

Making Solar Accessible

We believe that the spread of solar energy is inevitable, but we are pushing the implementation timetable forward by working with state legislatures, the state utility commissions, and the utilities themselves to create opportunities for everyone to benefit from solar’s incredible potential.