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Published on November 21st, 2014 | by Jake Richardson


Vivint Solar’s CEO Is Optimistic About The New Congress

November 21st, 2014 by  

Originally published on Solar Love.

GregButterfieldIn a recent interview, Vivint Solar CEO Greg Butterfield said he is optimistic about how the new Congress will be in relation to solar power.

His perspective is admirable, because optimism tends to help CEOs be effective leaders. This mental framework is not about expecting positive outcomes only, it is more of a belief in the potential to overcome difficulties and to experience success.

The general view is that Democrats favor solar power and most Republicans do not… well, on the Congressional level, that has very much been true. Therefore, renewable energy supporters may have been very upset about the mid-term elections.

Let’s look at some of Butterfield’s answers in the interview: “I think the federal government steps in whenever something must be done to benefit the broader public. For example, it has offered subsidies for oil and gas since just about forever. It also provides the ITC tax credit for solar, which has been instrumental for us to build a renewable, lower-cost energy service. There is a step-down in the credit anticipated for 2016, but we believe we’ll still be successful after that happens.”

That fossil-fuel companies have received federal support is a great point, and one that is often not included when critics attack solar power for having a tax credit. The ITC  provides a 30% tax credit for new residential and commercial solar power systems. It was implemented in 2006, and has aided in increasing the annual rate of solar installation 1600%.

As it stands, the law will expire after December 2016. There is some concern that solar power should be able to stand on its own. However, why do oil and gas continue to receive federal support, but solar is supposed to be unsupported at some point? Solar is an emerging technology and market and should be supported as it grows and to help it continue growing.

Also, solar is no threat to fossil fuels yet, because only about 1% of electricity in America comes from solar power. When the big tax credit expires in about two years, it is also possible that each state legislature might decide to increase its support for solar power. You can already see that Democrat-oriented states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, and Oregon are all solar power leaders. Republican states with plenty of sunshine like Florida and Georgia are not.

So, if the new Congress won’t support solar, many states will probably continue to do so, and more may come aboard. Any solar CEO would have to be very careful about what statements she or he makes about politics and public policy, because it might be misinterpreted or come across as offensive. Making cautious statements is probably the safest way of communicating publicly.

Image Credit: Vivint

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  • Dragon

    The billionaires that buy our politicians have been pro-oil for a long time. However, as evidence mounts that fossil fuels are leading us toward an unlivable world, the billionaires that are less stubborn and have fewer ties to fossil fuel as a continuing income source will start to push renewable energy. Wall Street bankers that make money off money and saw Wall Street shut down by superstorm Sandy may become some of the biggest supporters, unless they decide there’s more money to be made investing in disaster cleanup. But beneath it all, the fact that billionaires are dooming their kids by propping fossil fuels should slowly change minds and have powerful influences behind the scenes. Unfortunately I don’t know how quickly minds are changing or how the Republicorp senate (or house) will behave. Their biggest goal has been to be against anything Obama is for, and that will likely continue, so maybe Obama will decide to come out against renewables so congress can be for it. But really, things will probably be decided by the well-organized Koch brother network vs the gradually growing influence of billionaires like Tom Styer. Unfortunately, I doubt the Styers of the world are yet strong enough to counter the Koch network. The 650,000 people marching worldwide against climate change last September certainly helped and we’re seeing major positive changes in policy of China, India, and Obama (still not enough, but a good start). However, I think it’s probably too much to hope that those changes will spread to our oil-soaked House, Senate, or Supreme Court in the next 2 years.

    At least things look much brighter for democrats in 2016: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/20/1346224/-GOP-Columnist-The-VERY-Bad-News-FOR-THE-GOP-in-the-GOP-s-Midterm-Victory

    On the other hand, the way Republicorp has gerrymandered House districts it seems very unlikely dems will take back the house for many years, and the supreme court is one of the worst things to happen to the country as they keep passing laws allowing more billionaire influence on politicians, more suppression of poor voters, and so on. We need more people to stand up and vote to change all this crap, but too many people decide it can’t be fixed and don’t vote, or get sucked in by the big money propaganda machine and vote against their own interests.

  • Michael G

    True or not UNsubsidized solar will eventually be able to beat subsidized FF based on pure economics in the US. It already has in parts of the rest of the world. Koch and co. are just delaying the inevitable. They should build a bunker in Berlin.

    • Matt

      While your statement is true, the life span of a FF plant is 40-60 years. So one completed next year goes until 2055-2075; not a good thing. So we need the subsidies to FF to drop ASAP so that wind, PV, hydro, and tide are what gets built.

  • Larry

    I hope Mr. Butterfield is right. My gut tells me otherwise.

    • Offgridman

      I had a thought similar to his, in that a Republican Congress and Senate could get a behind the use of renewable energy on a purely economic and energy security basis. Think along the lines of the Green Tea Party. So if they can pretend that it is just their own idea to do so, like with the clean air act and ozone control thirty years ago, it may happen.
      No guarantees, but it is a possibility.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Wind is big in several red states. A couple years ago we saw Republican governors of red states traveling to Washington in support of continued of the wind industry.

        It feels like the resistance to “hippie electricity” has dropped a lot over the last couple of years. I can’t predict whether supports for wind will be extended but I wouldn’t bet against it.

        With coal companies dying I wonder if lobbying from the coal industry might be down a bit. Or might the survivors be turning up the pressure in order to survive as long as possible?

        We’ll know soon. These so overworked legislators will put in a few short day, sort week sessions and hurry home to rest up.

  • Local permitting districts and states may be the wildcard for renewables. A happy PV solar customer on a school board may be the best use of marketing and advertising dollars. It all depends how entrenched anti renewable folks are at the local level. They’ve (fossil fuel) done a pretty good job at retail politics over the past 10 years or so. That’s why fracking could move in without much environmental impact study. Oil is more than energy. It’s the entire political and financial driver for the US. Oil like defense spending is unquestionable, politically speaking. We’re seeing this with nat gas now that they can’t sell enough of it domestically. That’s why gas is being turned into a transportable liquid and used like oil. Renewables need to play the ground game (local and state) as well as the passing game (federal).

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