Some people may have done a double take on July 11 when they saw me and fellow members of the Atlanta Tea Party celebrating next to the Sierra Club as it was announced that Georgia’s largest energy provider will invest in a huge increase in solar power. Why was the Tea Party rallying with groups across the aisle like the Sierra Club?
It’s time for a new party. I’m calling it the Green Tea Coalition.
The premise is simple: Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.
In Georgia, we have one company controlling all of the electricity production, which means consumers have no say in what kind of power they must buy. A solar company could not start up and offer clean power to customers because of restrictions in state law. Our Constitution does not say that government should pick winners and losers, but that is what government is doing when it protects the interests of older technologies over clean energy that’s now available at competitive prices. I say, let the market decide.
Solar prices have plummeted since 2008, dropping almost 75 percent in some areas. Solar is now a great bet against rising utility rates, because once you set up the system, the fuel — sunlight — will always be free. No one owns the sun or has exclusive rights to it. We can give consumers the option to choose solar and protect the environment at the same time.
Just look at the technological advancements that cellphones and personal computers have enjoyed because of free-market competition. Shouldn’t alternative energy sources be given the same chance?
If an individual wants to harvest the sunlight that’s falling on their property and sell it for a profit, that’s their American right. There are now programs in other states that allow people to lease solar panels for their roofs with no up-front cost, enabling them to become local energy entrepreneurs who can sell their solar energy back into the grid and power their homes for less. Georgians are currently and unjustly denied this opportunity, and will continue to be unless a law is passed to change the system. That is why the Atlanta Tea Party supported Senate Bill 401 in the past legislative session. Georgia Power opposed it and it never made it out of committee. We will try again when the Georgia legislature reconvenes in January 2014. All states should allow their citizens the opportunity to generate and sell their own solar power.
In Georgia, we are showing the country that groups from the left, right, and any other direction can put differences aside and come together in pursuit of a common goal. Many people are surprised to hear that the Tea Party is working with environmental groups, but we both believe in diversification of our energy portfolio, protecting our children, and creating a smart, vibrant, 21st-century American economy where every company competes on a level playing field.
I’m a grandmother, and I want to be able to look my grandson in the eyes and tell him I’m looking out for his future. Conservation is conservative, and protecting our children and our natural resources is a conservative value. If you look back in history, Republican Teddy Roosevelt helped protect thousands of acres of land and parks, and the Clean Air Act passed almost unanimously with overwhelming bipartisan support. Today, Barry Goldwater Jr. is fighting for solar based on free-market principles in Arizona. Some conservatives are acting like it’s not in all of our best interest to protect the air our kids breathe and the water they drink, but the true conservative base cares about family values. There is an ever-increasing demand for energy and we owe it to future generations to insure there is an ample clean energy supply.
The announcement on July 11 that Georgia Power will add 525 megawatts of solar by 2016 is a big deal, and not just because it means Georgia will have one gigawatt of solar and wind energy by 2017 — the equivalent of a large coal or nuclear plant. It’s a big deal because it shows that Southern states are getting in the game and letting clean energy compete. Georgia is ranked fifth in solar energy potential in the U.S., but until now has been only 38th in solar power projects installed. We hope Georgia will be a role model that other states will follow.
So the next time you see your local Tea Party and the Sierra Club at the same event cheering for clean energy, don’t scratch your head and wonder if the sky is falling. The sunlight is falling — and we can all benefit from it if we put away our old thinking and invest in new, low-cost clean energy that will create true American prosperity.