If you had to guess how the solar and renewable energy industry in the United States was reacting to the Green New Deal, you might think they’d be pretty excited about it. After all, they have a lot to gain if we try to move the entire country to renewable energy in the next decade. But Reuters reports things aren’t that simple. In fact, spokespeople for the renewable industry seem worried the Green New Deal is likely to create trouble for them by politicizing their industry:
“If you just broadly endorse the Green New Deal, you are liable to upset one side of the aisle or the other. And that’s not constructive,” said Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower Corp, one of the nation’s biggest solar power companies.
“The idea that you could go 100 percent (clean energy) in 10 years would require a lot of things happening perfectly, simultaneously,” he said. “You’d have to have bipartisan support, 52-state support.”…
“We love the enthusiasm the Green New Deal has brought to the climate issue … but we need to operate in political reality,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry’s main lobby group.
Another concern is the fact that the plan extends beyond energy and climate policies to include guarantees of jobs, training and healthcare for communities affected by climate change, said Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a non-profit organization promoting renewable energy industries.
“It creates controversy and complexity, tying this to issues that are not in our sphere,” he said.
So maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to include the entire Democratic Socialist wishlist in the Green New Deal after all? If the resolution had been limited to a commitment to renewables instead of throwing in health care, social justice, and a job guarantee, maybe some of these industry figures would be willing to step out and support it. As it stands, they have a lot to lose in terms of actual customers if they go out on a limb with all of this.
Evan Weber, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement says his group has met with industry leaders but he doesn’t expect them to get on board “until the politics shift.” That may be farther off then he thinks. It’s true most of the Democratic candidates are on board with the Green New Deal resolution but I think even some of them might balk once this monstrosity is turned into actual policy proposals.
Even if the Dems remain onboard, the whole point of the tepid reaction from the renewable industry is that there’s a whole other part of the country that is definitely not on board yet. Yes, I realize there are polls showing tremendous support for the GND but those polls inevitably leave out one thing: the cost. For instance, here’s some polling from Business Insider last month:
87.2% of poll respondents said it was somewhat, very, or extremely important that the US meet 100% of its power demands through renewable or zero-emission energy sources; 12.7% said this goal was either not so important or not at all important…
The resolution’s call for major investment in energy-efficient transportation was also popular, with 87.6% of those polled saying it’s important that the government invest directly in a high-speed rail system, zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, and clean public transit.
It’s wildly popular and will remain so until you tell people that their energy bills will go up 20% or more if we eliminate fossil fuels from energy production. And thanks to an ever-expanding budget, support for high-speed rail can’t even sustain itself in blue California, so you can imagine how that’s going to work out in Texas.
Over time, smart solutions to our energy problems will supplant older technology. But there is a limit to the price people are willing to pay up front to have all of these things happen immediately. Supporters of the GND are desperate to avoid that discussion but they’ll have to face it eventually. The solar and renewables industry is smart to take a step back from the GND until that happens.