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MIT Study Supports CRI Solar Policy

Delaware is currently meeting 1% of its electricity needs with solar power at a cost of one third of a billion dollars in subsidy commitments from taxpayers and electric customers. This is unsustainable.  A common sense approach to solar energy has been proposed by a leading university. “The Future of Solar”, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports the policy initiatives we have encouraged in Delaware. Solar energy has the potential to be a major contributor to power in the United States, but not with current government policy.  It is past time for a major revision to Delaware Energy policy.
Federal support should be for basic research, not tax credits – 85% of the solar projects being deployed today use thirty year old technology, and by any measure, is a mature industry.  The big need is for advanced solar collectors that can reach efficiencies beyond the current 15% to 22%, can lower cost, and can provide storage for times when the sun doesn’t shine. This is the type of break through basic research that existing companies cannot fund. The federal government provided $5 billion in tax credits for investment in wind and solar generating facilities last year. It is time to abandon such tax credits and invest in research instead.
Subsidies should not fund high cost, inefficient systems – the biggest subsidies now go to high cost residential systems, often in regions, such as Delaware, with poor solar resources.  Utility scale systems are half the cost of residential systems, and MIT found large utility scale system prices reflect actual cost while small residential systems have prices inflated beyond the levels expected from installed costs because of the subsidy structure.  Last year 64% of new solar projects nationally were utility scale, and in Delaware the Delaware Electric Cooperative and the Municipal Electric companies obtain 70% to 80% of their solar power from utility scale systems.  Yet Delmarva Power meets solar requirements with only about 25% utility scale and has no plans to build a utility scale system because of government imposed rules favoring small systems.  Those rules need to change.
Solar installations need to pay a fair share of distribution costs – Solar installation systems currently receive a credit for the full retail cost of power they produce. Power is added to an electric grid designed to move power to electric users, not from them, adding extra cost burdens to the grid. Some system owners are paying nothing toward transmission and distribution shifting the cost to other, often lower income, customers. Net metering rules need to be changed so solar power producers pay a fair share of maintaining the electric grid.
 Renewable Portfolio Standards should be national not state based – Delaware and New Jersey have the most aggressive solar power requirements east of the Mississippi, and also two of the most aggressive  wind power requirements while having poor sunshine and no economically viable wind power resources. The result is almost no in state power generation from renewables but enormous job killing subsidy payments that go to investments and jobs in states with modest renewable power requirements and cheap electric prices like Virginia and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, high sunshine states in the southeast have weak renewable mandates to avoid the economy busting costs. It makes no sense for Delaware to wreck its economy chasing solar technology that is simply not ready to stand on its own, and is not really appropriate for our climate. A national system is needed favoring generation where the best solar and wind resources are located. 
Dave T. Stevenson

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