Five clear-eyed reasons for conservatives to support solar – The Hill

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Five clear-eyed reasons for conservatives to support solar | The Hill

Workers install solar panels during a SunPower installation on a home in Napa, California, US, on Monday, July 17, 2023. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.)

With another divisive presidential election here, nothing seems safe from partisan rancor, including energy. Despite being essential to everyday life, energy has become tribal. Democrats tend to support a transition to renewables, while Republicans defend more traditional sources like oil and natural gas.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As a Texan and right-of-center conservative who served as ambassador to the United States Department of Energy during the Trump administration, I believe fossil fuels will be with us well into the future. As the CEO of ALLY Energy, an online workforce development company, I see that the energy transition is well underway but won’t happen overnight. Fossil fuels and renewables are not mutually exclusive. America is stronger with a combination of both.

However, amid these partisan divisions, there’s a bridge we can build towards a more sustainable future, and solar energy is a critical component. Here are five reasons for my fellow conservatives to set aside their suspicions of the Biden administration and embrace solar energy.

First, the U.S. needs more energy from diverse sources to meet the surge in electricity. 

Shoring up our infrastructure will require an immense energy supply. Data centers, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies have all contributed to a sharp demand increase. In December, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation warned that as many as 300 million people in North America could face electricity shortages starting in 2024.  A recent Washington Post story laid out that “vast swaths of the United States are at risk of running short of power.”

Solar is already helping to bridge the gap. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 4 percent of domestic electricity came from solar in 2023. It is expected to be the leading source of growth in the power sector through the end of 2025. For Texas, my home state, the sun is shining bright, adding 3.7 gigawatts of solar capacity in the fourth quarter of 2023 and leading the country all year.

Second, the uptick in demand has fueled a dramatic spike in prices. 

In 2022, consumers paid an average of 14.3 percent more for electricity compared to a year earlier, doubling the overall 6.5 percent price increase. Residential solar has dramatically reduced pricing over the last few years, resulting in strong adoption rates for homeowners looking to save money on their electricity bills and protect their homes from increasing power outages thanks to the advent of home battery storage paired with solar systems.

With nearly 4 in 10 Americans unable to afford an emergency $400 expense, unexpectedly high electric bills can mean financial ruin.

Third, the uptick in extreme weather is undeniable. 

During this winter’s Arctic blast in Texas, surplus energy from solar generation helped charge batteries and gave grid operators a chance to correct issues at thermal plants. In fact, at one point, solar accounted for 20 percent of the power in Texas, the nation’s largest oil-producing state. Last summer when extreme heat pushed electricity demand to record highs, solar again provided 20 percent of the power grid, with homes and businesses turning into virtual power plants. When we have this kind of unpredictability, all energy forms must work in concert.

Fourth, there are national security concerns. 

When Vladimir Putin launched a war in Ukraine, Western European countries that had become reliant on Russian natural gas felt the pinch. Germany, for example, imported 55 percent of its gas from Russia and was forced to restart coal production to meet demand after the war started. 

With our vast landscape, America also has tremendous natural resources that can produce energy in new and different ways with renewable energy sources like distributed solar and batteries. A strong renewable energy manufacturing base is good for America’s national security and economic well-being.

Finally, there is stability. 

Fiscal conservatives want regulatory certainty and predictability in the macroeconomy. Forcing the energy industry to constantly adjust to the political whims of the administration every four or eight years is no way to do business.

To my fellow conservatives: I get it. Fossil fuels have been demonized for political gain, but the long-term politics are not on our side. More than 75 percent of young conservatives support expanding clean energy access to consumers in rural areas, according to a recent poll from Echelon Insights. The next generation of conservationists is pushing America to lead on methane.

There is a growing need for more energy sources and solar fits the bill. We’re missing the political will to win with all energy. Let’s rise above the political rancor and change that.

Katie Mehnert is the founder and CEO of ALLY Energy. She is a former ambassador to the United States Department of Energy and serves on the National Petroleum Council.


Climate change

Katie Mehnert

Politics of the United States

Renewable energy

Renewable energy transition

Solar energy

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