The Minnesota Legislature may have finally agreed on how much solar power the state should be forced to use.
According to Minnesota Public Radio,
The Minnesota House and Senate have agreed to an energy bill that includes a 1.5 percent solar energy standard for investor-owned utilities.
The House version of the bill originally wanted investor-owned utilities to provide at least four percent of their power through solar generation, while the Senate bill wanted one percent.
The bill with the 1.5 percent compromise now goes back to the House and Senate for final votes.
But really, any percentage of solar generation decided on politics, rather than markets, is likely to have economic consequences. Given how extraordinarily expensive solar power is compared to traditional energy sources, and how it’s expected to be for a long time, it’s unfair to force people to purchase it.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the levelized cost of electricity using solar photovoltaic technology is estimated to still be about 234% higher than the cheapest source by 2016, and that percentage is even higher for solar thermal. Although that’s an improvement, it actually comes in spite of the renewable energy mandates, not because of it.
As one green-energy executive explained, government subsidies (including mandates) allow companies to focus less on reducing cost. In this case, putting off the year the true cost of solar is competitive with traditional energy sources.
The free market is widely known to benefit both consumers and taxpayers. But if Minnesota’s solar industry truly aspires to scale-up and be an economically competitive alternative to fossil fuels, they too, should consider opposing this mandate.