A Georgia splinter group known as the Green Tea Coalition, which is part of the broader anti-big-government movement, is reviving the Republican link with the Sierra Club that dates back more than a century to President Theodore Roosevelt’s work to protect the environment. Its influence is being felt in other states, from Arizona in the West to North Carolina on the East Coast.
“Some people have called this an unholy alliance,” said Debbie Dooley, founder of the coalition and a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots. She’s working with the Sierra Club to fight for solar and against nuclear power in Georgia. “We agree on the need to develop clean energy, but not much else.”
The alliance is a danger for utilities such as Southern Co. (SO)’s Georgia Power unit and Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (PNW)’s Arizona Public Service, which are resisting the spread of solar energy as a threat to their business model. It may help solar developers such as SolarCity Corp. (SCTY) and panel manufacturers including SunPower Corp. (SPWR) of San Jose, California.
What’s uniting the environmental and Republican groups is the view that plunging prices for solar panels may mean consumers don’t need to buy all their electricity from utilities and their giant centralized generation plants.
“The free market approach works well in Republican circles, so I can understand how these strange bedfellows come together,” said Frank Maisano, an energy specialist at the Washington law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. “It becomes an economic argument.”
Solar panel prices have fallen 57% since the start of 2011 to about 86 cents a watt as of Nov. 4, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That means solar power costs an average $143 a megawatt-hour worldwide now, down from $236 in the first quarter of 2011, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Nuclear costs about $101 and natural gas $70, by comparison.
The next big test is in Arizona, where the son of Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential candidate, is campaigning against the local utility in favor of solar energy.
On Nov. 13, regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission in Phoenix are expected to consider a request by Arizona Public Service to charge customers as much as $100 a month to feed solar power onto the distribution grid.
Arizona is one of 43 states that requires utilities to buy electricity from household solar systems, potentially cutting into revenue for the company known locally as APS. The regulator’s staff recommended Oct. 1 that the utility’s request be rejected and the issue taken up again at a regularly scheduled hearing in 2015 for rates that would take effect the following year. Some conservatives are siding with the solar industry.
Utilities “don’t like the competition,” said Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the late senator and presidential candidate. “I’m a conservative Republican and I think people should have a choice.”
In September, Dooley explained to the Daily Beast that she supports solar energy in part because of her opposition to government subsidies for big energy and nuclear and coal power. Instead, Dooley insists, the government should end all subsidies to energy corporations and let the market choose. As solar prices continue to decrease year after year, she believes that solar is on track to become the most affordable option for consumers.
“People are hypocritical when they say, ‘Ooooh, Solyndra. Look at the subsidies solar receives!’” Dooley told the Daily Beast. “But they’re silent on the subsidies coal and nuclear have received since the 1940s.”
Despite her pro-consumer, anti-government ideology, Dooley and the Green Tea Coalition have repeatedly clashed with fellow tea party organizations. When campaigning for Georgia Power to increase its purchases of solar power, the Green Tea Coalition found itself at odds with Americans for Prosperity, the powerful conservative group largely funded by petroleum billionaires the Koch brothers.
Dooley says that the group immediately began a misinformation campaign claiming the measure would drastically increase
its purchases of solar power, the Green Tea Coalition found itself at odds with Americans for Prosperity, the powerful conservative group largely funded by petroleum billionaires the Koch brothers.
Dooley says that the group immediately began a misinformation campaign claiming the measure would drastically increase consumers’ energy costs. Despite the campaign, the Green Tea Coalition still prevailed.http://climatecrocks.com/2013/11/13/bloomberg-green-tea-party-breaks-mold/