Using Community Solar To Protect Energy Freedom


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Originally Published in Real Clear Energy

Whether it’s record heat advisories across the Midwest, threat of blackouts in Texas, or unprecedented tornadoes and tropical storms, consumers’ ability to rely on their respective state grids has been seriously tested. And has often failed in recent months.

Thankfully, solutions are already cropping up across the country.

More states are witnessing a diversified energy portfolio that brings better grid resilience and energy security during extreme events — and throughout the rest of the year. Solar has helped Texas avoid massive blackouts this summer. Entire communities in Florida kept the lights on and A/C running during and after a hurricane. Smaller “microgrids” have been quickly deployed in the recovery of the devastating Lahaina fires in Maui.

Yet, currently, not all Americans can choose their source of energy. Consumer choice, energy security, and economic savings are the backbone of any conservative energy policy. It’s why more states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are seeing the value that community solar can provide. And it’s why conservative clean energy supporters have launched the Community Solar Freedom Coalition.

Many hard-working Americans, simply due to physical attributes of their home, or if they rent their home or business, cannot go solar. Renters and homeowners unable to take advantage of solar are left without energy freedom and are limited to types of energy generation chosen for them. Small businesses struggling to keep up with inflation are left with limited options on how to possibly decrease their energy costs. This lack of freedom creates a divide between those that have control over their choice of energy source and those who do not.

The purpose of our Coalition, led by the Conservative Energy Network, is to bridge those divides and help fellow conservatives realize the tangible benefits that community solar has to offer.

Community solar refers to a solar array located within a community where multiple customers can subscribe and receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power that is produced, just as if the panels were on their roof. All types of customers, including residents, small businesses, churches, and hospitals, can sign up to receive energy generated from a certain number of panels. In short, community solar provides access to the economic benefits of solar generation regardless of limitations that may prohibit the installation of rooftop solar.

In many states, private community solar development is hindered by current law. Fortunately, conservative policymakers around the country are addressing these policy and regulatory hurdles head on and embracing community solar as an opportunity to prioritize economic development, increase consumer choice, and promote grid reliability. There is currently conservative-led pro-community solar legislation pending in nine states. In fact, two conservative legislators introduced a pro-community solar bill in Ohio just last month.

The introduction of this legislation is good policy and good politics. Polling conducted by the Conservative Energy Network in November 2022 found that 78% of voters believe community solar should be part of a diversified energy strategy in their state. Furthermore, 74% favor community solar development that is bid through a competitive market rather than solely being developed by utilities. 

The Community Solar Freedom Coalition was founded because conservatives believe that the private development of community solar will save individuals and businesses money, expand consumer choice, generate income and financial security for landowners, create American jobs, boost local economies without raising taxes, and strengthen America’s energy grid. The organizations and thought leaders in the coalition want to protect energy freedom by ensuring that all Americans have access to reliable and affordable energy.

Summer’s heat will inevitably give way to winter’s cold which will present its own challenges to our nation’s electric grid. As demand increases, we need to utilize every available source of energy to keep our lights on and our electric bills low. As a conservative, I do not want to be forced to rely on the government to keep my family and I safe. I want to have the freedom to do it myself. Community solar is a key tool in our toolkit as we work to build energy freedom in an energy independent America.