The new year began unfavorably for solar energy in Austin, as evidenced by the article “Then There’s This: Clouds Over Solar
,” [News, Jan. 10], but Austin can not allow this unfortunate beginning to tarnish the potential that solar has in 2014.
I attended the meeting held by the Austin City Council Committee for Emerging Technology and Telecommunications on January 15. At the meeting, Austin Energy and various community stakeholders voiced their expectations, plans, and concerns for solar in 2014. AE presented that the credit sweep cost AE customers upwards of $60,000 in lost solar production credit. Further, as stated in the article, the value of solar has been decreased by nearly 20% for 2014. AE pointed to the decrease in natural gas prices as a major contributor to this change.
However, AE also relied on other variable manipulations to reach this result. For example, they decreased the useful life of solar installations from 30 years to 25 years, rather than the actual useful life, which can be greater than 50 years, because that is the warranty period on some of the installation equipment. As anyone knows the warranty on a product does not dictate the useful life, a car is not only useful for the five to seven years it has full warranty.
Whatever the reasoning, this decrease in solar value can only be a mere wrinkle in the landscape of Austin’s solar future. However painful and unfortunate these arbitrary changes currently are, we can not allow them to prevent Austin from being a leader in change, as Austin has the potential to be.
2014 is shaping up to be a crucial time for Austin and solar. Solar is certainly a hot topic among residents, utilities, industry leaders, and government, so this is the time to take a stand and support the change. There are 11 more months to ensure that these same harsh beginnings do not carry forward in years to come. As an Austin resident, I strongly hope that other residents will stand up and support solar for the remaining 11 months, and not allow this bump in the road to detour the path to change in Austin.