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$58,000 Solar Investment Nets PA Couple a $21 Carbon Credit

By Nick Loris

We can see the t-shirt slogan already: I paid $58,000 for solar panels and all I got was a $21 carbon credit that bought me this t-shirt. It’s not very catchy, but that’s the story of a Harrisburg couple, Tami and Randy Wilson, who installed solar panels in their home to reduce their electricity bill:

The Pennsylvania couple has sold the world’s first carbon credit awarded for a reduction in personal carbon emissions. About 1,800 others have signed up to follow suit – underlining the US public’s readiness to press ahead on the issue. The Wilsons began by getting rid of their son’s heated water bed, turning off power to computers and televisions when not in use, changing to energy-efficient light bulbs, hang-drying their laundry and, finally, investing $58,000 in a solar panel system – until they reduced their electricity bill to zero.

Then they signed up on the site to have their energy savings calculated. They found that they had already saved one tonne of carbon, which earned them a carbon credit. The exchange sold the credit for $21.50 to Molten Metal Equipment Innovations of Ohio, taking a 20 per cent commission.”

Make that $17.20 for the t-shirt after subtracting the exchange’s take. But if we wanted to have some truth to a t-shirt for the Wilsons, it would read: Thank you taxpayers for paying for $36,000 of our investment and thanks federal government for creating an artificial market for carbon dioxide credits. The Wilsons received an $18,000 federal tax credit and an $18,000 rebate check from Pennsylvania’s state government and also expect to collect $2,700 in renewable energy certificates.

If the Wilsons or any other family wants to invest in solar panels or windmills to save money, they should be permitted to do. But they shouldn’t do it with the taxpayers’ help. There’s a reason renewable energy only meets a very small portion of our energy needs. Wind and solar cannot survive without preferential treatment through subsidies, mandates and tax breaks. Take away those government handouts; do the Wilsons still make that $58,000 investment? There’s a big difference between a $19,000 investment and a $58,000 investment.

Tami Wilson said, “It takes a trigger point to get people involved. For us it was the announcement of a 30 per cent increase in our electricity bill.” That’s the point of government policies like cap and trade; after all, President Obama said that under his cap and trade plan, “electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket.” The goal is not only to raise the price of energy high enough for people to use less of it, but also to distort the market in such a way to make renewable energy prices able to compete in the market.

The Wilsons expect to sell renewable energy certificates to carbon-emitting companies that need to meet government mandates and will recover their investment in six years. Unfortunately, the American taxpayers cannot make such a claim.


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