Home > Uncategorized > Solar Bill Not Only Would Destroy Farms & Forests, It Would Lock In Centralized Corporate Monopoly Power

Solar Bill Not Only Would Destroy Farms & Forests, It Would Lock In Centralized Corporate Monopoly Power

Corporate and Finance Interests Have Hijacked The “Green Energy” Agenda

“Planet of the Humans” Validated

The NJ Senate Environment Committee yesterday approved a bill [S2605] that would promote and subsidize large “utility scale” solar systems on farms and forested land, see today’s NJ Spotlight story:

The siting and farmland issues are getting the major focus, but the much larger issues relate to the vision for a renewable energy future and the structure and control of the power system.

I) The Bill Would Destroy A Democratic Decentralized Public Energy System And Dictate Corporate Monopoly Profits

The bill is profoundly misguided, as it would transform a vision of what should be a small scale, decentralized, democratic, and publicly owned and/or controlled renewable energy future into the same corporate, private profit driven, centralized grid we suffer from today.

The “competitive solicitation” process and “power purchase agreement” provisions in the bill have strong echoes to a failed 1985 law (“McEnroe”, NJSA 13:1D-136 et seq)) that established a similar “competitive bidding” (then called “negotiated procurement”) process to promote and subsidize private investment in the garbage incineration technology (Orwellianly dubbed “resource recovery”), while providing above market rate energy contract subsidies for the power produced by burning garbage (those McEnroe subsidies are akin to the subsidies to solar developers by the “reasonable value for capacity” provided by the current bill). The Legislature also passed a $138 million bond act and the McEnroe law also included a suite of landfill taxes to provide millions of dollars in additional subsidies to incineration.

That 1985 “McEnroe” law – named for Democratic legislator Harry McEnroe from Essex County –  not only provided huge public subsidies to corporations, it deregulated the prior BPU “rate base – rate of return” public utility regulation of the industry. [It is important to note that the McEnroe legislation was the first step towards broader deregulation of the energy industry in 1999 under the Whitman administration.]

As a result, the McEnroe law produced the billion dollar boondoggle and environmental nightmare of garbage incineration, which benefitted only Wall Street finance, NJ Bond Counsel law firms and a handful of corporate grifters who built the projects, while the environment was polluted and ratepayers were ripped off.

And once again, we have a Democratic legislator, beholden to and serving the interests of Wall Street and corporate monopolist PSE&G, sponsoring terrible legislation under a “green” pretext. NJ Spotlight reports: (emphasis mine)

Grid-scale projects — ones that produce at least 10 megawatts of electricity — are viewed as “absolutely essential’’ to reach the goal of having New Jersey residents get 34% of their power from solar by mid-century, according to Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the committee and primary bill sponsor.

“Grid-scale” and “utility sale” are euphemisms for guaranteed corporate monopoly profits and corporate control of what should be public power.

So, we’ve gone down this road before – with McEnroe privatization, deregulation, and subsidies followed by Whitman deregulation – and know full well what it will produce.

That’s why the bill reads like it was written by lobbyists for PSE&G and Exelon – and it literally may well have been.

II)  No Need to Destroy Farms & Forests – There Are Many Other Siting Locations

In addition to the aforementioned vision, scale, and industry structure issues, the siting issues are also deeply troubling.

There are hundreds of millions of square feet of commercial and warehouse rooftops and parking lots that could provide space to locate large scale solar power generation.

Legislation should mandate that the most suitable of these locations is used for solar power production.

So, even if one agree with the deeply problematic “economies of scale” and “cost effectiveness” and “least cost” and centralized grid premises and policies of the legislation, there are plenty of other places to locate “grid-scale” solar projects.

Not 1 acre of forest or farmland should be converted to solar farms unless & until every square foot of that space has been utilized for solar.

III) End It Don’t Mend It

NJ Spotlight reports that the Murphy BPU says the Gov. supports the bill and quotes prime sponsor Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith as suggesting that the bill is not “perfect” and will be amended prior to passage.

The bill is fundamentally flawed and can not be “perfected” by amendments.

The bill should be rejected and legislators should embrace an entirely different vision for renewable energy, not that of corporate and Wall Street interests.

If not, I have to agree that the recent controversial Michael Moore film “Planet of the Humans” – flawed as it is on several technical issues – was basically right – corporate interests really have hijacked the green agenda.

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