Why Is “Solar Power vs Utilities” Such A Hot Topic?

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Many of our most popular articles of the year concern the “fight” between solar power beneficiaries and utilities*. The distributed solar revolution is afoot, and talk of war, fighting, revolution, and the death of utilities is hot. Sometimes it seems to go a little further than is warranted, but I guess that’s how you get a revolution going, and it certainly seems to resonate well with readers.

I’ve just been wondering, why do such stories do so well? I thought I’d reflect on this a bit in public and also see what others think.


For one, I think there’s that whole “David vs Goliath” thing going on. Alongside that, there’s a similar “rich vs poor” or “rich vs middle class” or Robin Hood kind of story here. Utilities are rich semi-monopolies that have had a grip on our pocketbooks for ages. They also have a pretty huge influence over our policymakers. Electric utilities are the 13th biggest contributor to US Congress in terms of money donated. And they’re one of the least discriminatory — 40% goes to Democrats while 60% goes to Republicans. Anything that could dismantle the power of these megapowerful utilities is inherently a somewhat exciting topic.

Then there’s also the independence thing. Independence is a hot ideal within the US, and also in many other places. Solar power, clearly, gives us a bit more independence… or at least the ability to be independent. Furthermore, it gives us independence (or that potential for independence) from a somewhat faceless, vaguely known and understood, powerful body that we largely just see as taking our money.

A couple of lesser but still probably quite powerful concepts that I think make the solar vs utilities theme so popular are: 1) we are cutting pollution in favor of natural abundant, clean energy from the sun; and 2) this shift is part of another wave of technological transformation or revolution that gets some of us very excited. We read about the Industrial Revolution in our history books, but now we are in the midst of creating the Cleantech Revolution and the Distributed Energy Revolution. This is exciting stuff. We are creating history. And this time the result is a cut in pollution.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

*Other publications and writers are seeing the same trend. David Roberts of Grist had such a post go completely viral this year.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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