Solar Energy Controversies

April 29, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 17
Should consumers pay extra to go off the grid?
By Kevin Begos


Workers attach solar panels to a house in Albuquerque (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Sergio Flores)
Workers attach solar panels to a house in Albuquerque, N.M. Solar represents a tiny fraction of power generation in the U.S. but it is growing rapidly, forcing electric utilities to struggle to integrate it into the existing power system. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Sergio Flores)

The cost of installing a residential or commercial solar energy system has declined rapidly in recent years, aided by federal tax breaks backed by the Obama administration. Solar users say the technology saves them money by allowing them to generate their own electrical power and helps protect the environment by reducing demand on conventional coal- and natural gas-burning power plants. Solar remains a tiny fraction of overall power generation in the United States, but it is growing rapidly. As solar expands, electric utilities all over the country are struggling to integrate it into the existing power system. They argue that the rapid growth in solar threatens the financial stability of the power grid and that solar users should pay to help maintain the vast system of poles, wires and transformers — even if their conventional power needs decline. Meanwhile, the auto industry is looking to solar as an alternative power source, a trend that could add additional pressure to the struggling oil industry.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Nov. 11, 2016  Protecting the Power Grid
Apr. 29, 2016  Solar Energy Controversies
Jun. 05, 2015  Energy
Dec. 16, 2011  Fracking Controversy
May 20, 2011  Energy Policy
Apr. 01, 2011  Wind Power
Jul. 24, 2009  Energy and Climate
May 19, 2006  Energy Efficiency
Feb. 01, 2002  Energy Security
May 25, 2001  Energy Policy
Mar. 03, 2000  Energy and the Environment
Mar. 05, 1999  The Politics of Energy
Oct. 12, 1990  Energy Policy: Options for the 1990s
Jan. 30, 1981  Energy Policy: The New Administration
May 25, 1979  Public Confidence and Energy
Apr. 05, 1974  Continental Energy Sharing
Dec. 29, 1965  Electric Power Supply and Regulation
Consumer Behavior
Electric Power
Energy Conservation
Energy Policy
Regulation and Deregulation
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels
Science and Politics