By Carolyn Kormann : newyorker – excerpt (2015 article)
A rooftop in San Francisco with PV and thermal solar systems photo by zrants
The solar-energy business is booming. The average cost of installing solar panels has dropped by half since 2010, and a new solar electric system is now installed somewhere in the United States every four minutes. The growth extends well beyond the rooftops of American homes and small businesses; last week, Apple announced that it is investing in an eight-hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar solar farm in Monterey County, California, which it says will power its operations in the state by the end of 2016. Although solar is still small, supplying less than one per cent of the country’s electricity, its growth has alarmed the energy industry’s old guard—coal, oil, and utility companies. Working primarily through conservative advocacy groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which lobbies at the state level, and Americans for Prosperity (A.F.P.), which was founded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists, this coalition is doing its best to weaken the nascent industry, particularly rooftop solar. In a curious twist, however, ALEC and A.F.P. have found themselves butting heads with—and even losing battles to—tough-minded, pro-solar branches of the Tea Party.
Debbie Dooley was one of the twenty-two organizers of the first nationwide Tea Party protest, in 2009. A preacher’s daughter from Louisiana, she is a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, on the board of directors of the national Tea Party Patriots, and, since 2012, has been a fierce solar-power advocate. “I thought that the regulated monopoly in Georgia had far too much power,” she told me recently, describing the dominant utility company in her state. “They had begun to look out for the best interests of their stockholders instead of their utility customers.” Solar, she said, promised to give people energy autonomy. “The average person cannot build a power plant, but they can install solar panels on their rooftop, and they should be able to sell that energy to friends and neighbors if they wish.”
Dooley led a fight to persuade Georgia’s all-Republican utility commission to require Georgia Power to buy more of its energy from solar sources. A.F.P. fought back, sometimes in ways that Dooley found troubling. “They would put out completely false information,” she told me. Through mailers, mass e-mails, and Twitter, “they said that adding solar would cause disruption to the power supply and your household appliances. Electricity would be forty per cent higher! I don’t think they were really expecting me to go after what they were saying as forcefully as I did. I just ripped them to shreds over not being factual. We won that battle.” (A.F.P. did not respond to repeated requests for comment.) That was in 2013. Dooley had teamed up with the Sierra Club to form the Green Tea Coalition. Later, that coalition helped defeat an effort by Georgia Power to impose heavy fees on customers with rooftop solar systems…(more)
If they can do it in Georgia we should be able to do it anywhere.