Ever wonder about the fact that the ideology of the two US political parties happens to be directly contrary to the implied ideology of their energy policies? We have a party on the right that espouses limited government, personal responsibility, local control and minimal regulation. The party on the left promotes the advantages of government, the value of regulation and places limitations on local decisions that are contrary to national policies. If there were a consistent ideology, the left would be the friend of all forms of central generation, looking out for the greater good through a national, centrally controlled and regulated transmission grid. Conversely, the right would be demanding distributed generation, local control of energy of all forms, and an end to large scale generation as well as transmission lines for which the providers of rights of way gain no direct benefit.
That might be changing. A little.
An odd coalition has formed in Georgia between members of the Tea Party and the Sierra Club called the Green Tea Coalition (https://www.facebook.com/thegreenteacoalition). The Green Tea Coalition (GTC) was organized in Georgia initially to fight, oddly enough, the Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the front organization for the Koch brothers, over a proposal before the Georgia Public Service Commission to require Georgia power to increase its solar capacity by 525 MW by the end of 2016. Ultimately the Commission voted to mandate the capacity increase.
Since that vote in August the GTC have taken on the cause of cost controls for the Vogtle nuclear plant, in one of the few states where Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) is allowed in rates. They also published a Utility Customer Bill of Rights that would exclude CWIP and utility lobbying expenses from rate recovery. Just this month Georgia Power withdrawing a proposed tariff on residential solar, attacked as the “solar tax” by GTC.
In Arizona a similar organization has taken root (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t be Killed – TUSK), led by the son of Barry Goldwater Jr., to fight Arizona Public Service’s attempts to roll back solar subsidies and charge a $100/month fee for net metering. And like the GTC, finds itself head to head with two other Koch s front organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council and the “60 Plus Association.”
Both organizations have prompted “main stream” conservative figures and news outlets to refer to them as defectors. The AFP, “on behalf of the Georgia Tea Party Inc.,” without any apparent irony, claimed the GTC “breaks with tea party values.”
The Tea Party has been responsible for considerable political disruption of late, driven by ideology and misguided zeal. The argument that distributed generation under local control surely has an ideological appeal to them. Might rechanneling this energy to support greener, or at least olive drab technology options make sense in other regions?