MONTGOMERY, Ala., March 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To listen to the leaders of Louisiana's solar industry, continued pro-solar subsidies are necessary to shield customers from sky-high power bills and to continue the flood of jobs being spurred by generous state policy. In fact, those were two central points of a statement released on Tuesday by the state's solar industry. Unfortunately, those claims don't hold up well to the light of day.
"While many energy businesses are shedding jobs, solar is putting more people to work day after day, across Louisiana, serving hard-working families as employees and as customers," says Jeff Cantin, President of Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association.
Well, sort of. According to data from The Solar Foundation, 1,200 Louisianans worked in solar jobs last year. That's not insignificant, of course. But consider that solar employment in Louisiana fell by two hundred jobs from the year prior. That ranked the state in the bottom half nationally - just 34th in America - in solar jobs per capita. Now consider that Louisiana taxpayers are pouring in $42 million in public subsidy, or $35,000 per job, to support the state's solar industry. That's a lot of money for such a low ranking, especially for an industry that is actually losing jobs.
Even Alabama, a state that devotes zero state subsidy to solar and which offers net metering at much lower rates than Louisiana, claims five hundred solar jobs according to The Solar Foundation. It turns out that the solar industry doesn't necessarily need state subsidies to create jobs. It just likes them.
We've reported on murky jobs claims before, of course. In April of last year, we wrote about the "solar roller coaster" in Missouri, in which leaders in that state pumped in $175 million in subsidies to support solar. The program created job gains in the short term and resulted in added solar capacity. But, predictably, when the subsidies ended, so did the jobs. The executive director of the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association himself called the experience a "solar roller coaster." In the end, unsustainable subsidies weren't good for anyone, including the solar industry in Missouri itself.
Mr. Cantin wasn't done there, though. He stepped in it once more in his Tuesday statement, claiming, "Unfortunately for our citizens, Louisiana has some of the highest bills in the region."
Not quite. In fact, The Solar Foundation itself lists Louisiana as 44th in the nation in electricity rates. Only residents of six other states pay a lower rate for power than Louisianans. Even the Huffington Post notes that Louisiana's power rates are among the lowest in America.
Those murky claims weren't lost on author Kevin Boyd, who described them as an "hysterical defense of corporate welfare" as part of a commentary on the blog site, The Hayride. Boyd finds Cantin's cluelessness on Louisiana's power rates appalling, and so do we. The author also takes Cantin to task for the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association's stance on net metering in Louisiana.
"If Jeff Cantin owns a supermarket, I would like to see if he would go along with this deal. I grow tomatoes during the summer and I want to sell them. I'm not a farmer, but I do like to garden," writes Boyd. "Would Cantin buy my tomatoes from me at retail price? If not, why should utilities buy energy from Big Solar at retail prices, which is essentially what Cantin wants?"
That is an intriguing question, and I doubt Cantin or his allies are eager to answer. Of course, the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association doesn't exist to make sure utility customers get a fair deal. They exist to make sure policies are put into place that favor the solar industry. They are entitled to do that, of course, but they aren't entitled to make up their own set of facts. Doing so distorts the public debate, misleads policymakers tasked with protecting Louisiana consumers, and creates confusion in a debate where clarity is already lacking.
Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE)
SOURCE Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE)