“Let the sun shine!” That’s the refrain some of us have been singing for 50 years now.” Will 2021 Finally Be the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius?
At long last, it seems like the Age of Aquarius (for those of you old enough to remember) may finally be upon us. We have a President-elect who’s putting green jobs at the top of his economic policy agenda. The U.S. is about to rejoin the Paris climate accord after an embarrassing four-year hiatus. And millions of Americans are taking power into their own hands – literally – by installing home solar energy systems that are revolutionizing how we collect, store and share electricity in our communities.
If life imitates art, however, there is also great peril in our current situation. Just as the Age of Aquarius was poised to embrace love, light and humanity, the “dying Gods” in our Age of Pisces now stand in the way of this new dawn. In practical terms, regulated utilities and public utility commissions (PUCs) are playing the role of kingpins in a bygone era, where centralized power plants and aging and vulnerable transmission grids embody the old command-and-control approach to generating electricity. This antiquated model is no match for new solar and wind resources that are widespread across our nation and becoming cheaper every day. Now, with help from smart inverters and advanced battery systems, these renewables can store and send electricity in any direction – into our homes, electric vehicles and, increasingly, into the grid itself, which is in desperate need of shrinking its own carbon footprint.
These dying Gods say they welcome the arrival of this new Solar Age. But their actions tell a very different story. In Vermont, for example, the PUC (with a mission of consumer advocacy) has issued two-thirds fewer solar building permits than just two years ago and killed off 400 good paying solar jobs, with 1,000’s more on the chopping block. Inspired by the Koch Brothers’ arguments about “cost shifting” to cut solar net metering, the PUC’s recent decisions, in combination with expiring federal tax credits, will mean a Vermont consumer’s net payout for a new solar installation in 2022 will be 40% lower than in 2021. Vermont’s next reduction in solar incentive goes into effect February 1, 2021, so if you’re looking to get the most from solar, January is the month to make your move. (fyi, you lock in 10 years at today’s rates by just submitting an application). And the next reduction in Vermont solar incentive is September 1 – so there’s still time, but 2021 is expected to be hectic in the last year of the 22% federal tax credit. (The situation in neighboring New Hampshire is no better, and will be addressed in a future post.)
If there is to be a true dawning of the Age of Aquarius, these dying Gods in Vermont will need to stand down and let the sun shine more! That means one thing in 2021:
If the dying Gods try to block this path to a new dawn, they risk being trampled by the galvanizing force of new solar Aquarians who span our nation’s divided political spectrum. To some, solar power fosters economic independence in home, community and national energy decisions. To others, solar is the tip of the spear in our existential fight against global warming. All solar advocates welcome its increased affordability as well as the growing availability of app-based controls to direct personal energy flows at the touch of a button. Those who cling to quaint and increasingly outdated notions of centralized electricity dispatch risk being ostracized in this new power equation.
The thousands upon thousands of Vermonters who have already “gone solar” understand what’s at stake now. They appreciate the growing disconnect between grid operators and the democratizing effect of a new generation of residential power brokers, who are driven by an environmental ethic and support dynamic control mechanisms that set the pulse of the microgrid – bringing more renewable energy to home, transportation and thermal energy needs.
Any serious progress towards a carbon-free future depends on such decentralized power generation and the changes it will bring to the grid, including ownership of generating assets, load sharing, dispatch and control. Regulators still operating under the old 20th century model now must play catch up with early adopters of this solar wave, lest they get caught in the undertow of the changing tide.
In short, we must try at least to stay better informed and get more involved in our communities’ energy management decisions. So again, just click here to share your contact info, get in the discussion, and we’ll fill you in on what you can do.
Thanks for seizing the opportunities to address climate change in your daily lives, and Happy Holidays from all of us at Solaflect Energy. Here’s hoping not only for a better New Year, but also for the dawning of a new Age of Aquarius! Together, the power is in our hands to make a difference.