Solar Grabs A Small Piece Of The Subsidy Pie

The irony in all those post-Solyndra diatribes about the evils of government picking winners and losers is that government has always had its hands in the energy game. That’s the point the PennFuture Energy Center for Enterprise and the Environment was making with a report that concluded that “current subsidies for fossil fuels in Pennsylvania … including tax exemptions, tax credits and grants, total $2.9 billion per year.”

Nearly $3 billion in Pennsylvania alone; that makes the $315,697 that PennFuture is getting from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to advance the use of solar power in western Pennsylvania – one of 22 grants handed out in the Rooftop Solar Challenge, a program of theDOE’s SunShot Initiative – look piddling.

pennfuture,fossil fuel subsidies

image via Shutterstock

“Despite all the woe and consternation by some about incentives for new clean energy technology, like solar and wind power, the big dirty secret is that the highly profitable, fully mature fossil fuel industry is subsidized to the hilt,” Christina Simeone, PennFuture director, said in a statement. “Because of these subsidies, coal, oil, and natural gas have been chosen as the energy ‘winners’ in Pennsylvania. And the taxpayers are in many cases footing the bill.”

PennFuture said its own modestly funded project will help streamline ordinances and processes in 23 municipalities in the southwestern Pennsylvania in order to make installing solar power easier for homeowners and businesses. The organization said that right now, a mere five of the 23 municipalities “have zoning, permitting or inspection procedures defined for solar installation, and those are inconsistent.” Smoothing all that out is Phase 1 of the project. “Phase 2, if awarded, will extend this program to an additional 50 communities across Pennsylvania, targeting the state’s largest municipalities,” PennFuture said.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    Counting normal business deductions as “subsidies” for fossil fuels is disingenuous.