For as unlikely as the alliance seems, the new Green Tea Party Coalition is growing in membership, geography and notoriety.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg published a story earlier detailing the unlikely union between Tea Party conservatives and the environmental movement. While the new alliance seems wildly mysterious, a closer look at the recent battles between established utility companies and the solar industry brightly illuminates their common ground.
The Green Tea Coalition isn’t so much green as it is an advocate for the free market – a common conservative principle. As the cost of solar panels has dropped – more than 57 percent since 2011, according to Bloomberg – and new financing models have made it easier for home and business owners to afford solar installations, solar has become competitive.
While it still costs more per watt to install solar than it does to build nuclear or natural gas power plants, home and business owners can’t put nuclear reactors or gas-powered steam turbines on their roofs.
That makes solar the most disruptive new energy source there is. The fact that people can make their own electricity without having to buy it from a local utility company, which generally has a regional monopoly on a completely necessary service, means consumers have alternate choices.
And that consumer choice is at the heart of Tea Party politics, Coalition Founder Debbie Dooley told Bloomberg.
Characteristic of the Tea Party, members approached this free market and solar debate with guns blazing. The Green Tea Coalition has not been a quiet organization and has been carefully organizing its arguments and waiting to unveil them. They have now organized and partnered with the environmental groups that were decidedly surprised, but quite welcoming, oto battle utility companies and argue to utility regulators the importance of preserving and expanding access to distributed solar.
Barry Goldwater Jr., son of famed conservative California congressman, launched the Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK) organization in Arizona and is working closely with solar industry group The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) to fight Arizona Public Service’s bid to reverse the financial benefits of distributed solar in that desert state. Probably no other battle between a utility and the solar industry has earned as many headlines or stirred as much emotion as thisone, which the Arizona Corporations Commission began hearing argument on today.
Debates over distributed solar are also raging in Dooley’s home state of Georgia, as well as North Carolina, Vermont, California and Colorado, amongst others.