This is where the path of relentlessly determined government subsidization of politically-preferred, rather than free-marked-selected, fledgling technologies has brought us: A troubled global solar industry awash in oversupply and rent-seeking, and taxpayer dollars being spent on a lawsuit with a solar company that wants still more taxpayer dollars. The mind reels.
Last December, the Inspector General of the Treasury launched a probe of the three largest providers of solar panel installation companies that received funds from the much-vaunted 1603 Program — “Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Tax-Credits,” part of President Obama’s stimulus law meant to help the residential market make a switch to more renewable-energy use — as part of an ongoing investigation into whether the companies received excessive government grants via inflating their reported work costs.
One of the companies in question, SolarCity (several of whose executives and venture capital firm backers, you might remember, were generous Obama donors), is now countering with their own lawsuit against the federal government, demanding that they haven’t been paid enough money because their payouts were actually smaller than promised. From the WSJ:
The suit, filed quietly in February in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, comes as SolarCity and other industry players are defending solar-friendly government policies, and it could undermine the industry’s message that solar power will soon be viable without government help. …
The government is looking into whether SolarCity and other firms misrepresented the fair-market value of solar systems in order to boost the value of the grants they received. In its suit, SolarCity says two of the company’s subsidiaries received smaller-than-expected grants. The company doesn’t say exactly how much funding it applied for originally, but it says the final grants issued by the Treasury Department were $8 million less than was proper under the law.
The company says it could lose millions of dollars more if the government does the same thing on all $400 million in grants it has sought. …
SolarCity, of San Mateo, Calif., installs solar panels on homes and businesses and sells shares in those systems to investors. The company, which went public in December, depends heavily on federal and state subsidies and government policies that support solar-power development.
“…depends heavily on federal and state subsidies.” Gee, whatever would we do without the federal government using our money to pick the products they feel we should be buying, for us? ‘Cause let’s not forget who’s really to blame here: Yes, it sounds suspiciously like this company really doesn’t care about cheating the taxpayers as long as they can get theirs, but hey, they’re trying to get the best deal they can out of a contract promised to them by the feds. All of this cronyism, waste, and artificial market-distortion is only made possible by the cancer that is big-government largesse in the first place and the many ways in which it encourages people and businesses to rent-seek rather than survive on their competitive merits.