Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | October 22, 2009

affordable sun energy

SunRun is a company focussed on the costs of solar power for private consumers. It has a business model which enables people to avoid the pricey installation costs of setting up their own system and also avoid the hassles and risks of trying to maintain or optimize the installation.

The idea is that SunRun’s affiliates install a top quality system on your property but retain ownership of the energy generated. They then sell you clean energy from their network for a relatively low monthly cost.

I think its great to get consumers past the barrier of installation costs, but it doesn’t quite offer the same sense of freedom that comes with owning your own means of power production.

Another down side is that the company’s business model is (not surprisingly)  reliant on federal and state rebate systems. (You can get up to 30% of installation costs back from the federal government).

Now, as much as I love the wise and well-meaning influence of politicians these type of interventions can only produce bad investment. Solar is not yet feasible in a natural market. Its getting very close but it’s not there yet. In sunny places like Italy and the US south west, I believe that solar will be market competitive before long.

But if places like Massachusetts over subsidize solar too early we may find in a couple of years that solar remains an unreasonable investment. Perhaps wind, or some other technology will prove far more efficient. This blog gives a little sampling of how and where subsidies are riddling the renewable energy market.  How can we figure out the most efficient and environmentally responsible routes to take when different stages of the industry are being manipulated? When these manipulations are pulled back, we may find that in the end, cloudy places are still not good for solar.

Germany and Massachusetts are both having to adjust to the bumpy road of government’s fickle involvement.

“Creating” a level playing field through further government intervention can only confuse otherwise rational investment in infrastructure.

However, there is a crucial and pressing need for us to understand how unfairly tilted the field already is in favour of conventional and nuclear power sources. This is really a question for a future posting but here’s a petition to the Canadian government to get you thinking.

But, as individual consumers, we have to operate in the artificial environment constructed by the solar “experts” in  Washington and our state governments, and so it may very well make good economic sense to put voltaic panels on your roof in say, New Jersey. SunRun is a creative company that helps consumers move to solar whether it is market feasible or artificially feasible.




  1. I am glad to see South Africa has left an irreversible Afrikaner impression on you:

    “How can we figure out what is the most efficient and environmentally responsible routes…”

    Shouldn’t we use the verb “are” here instead of is?

    Some food for thought…

    Your Number One Fan


  2. Hi Brian,

    Nice blogging! It’s fun to read what you think.

    Interesting thoughts on this subject. I think that saying “Solar is not feasible in an open market” assumes that we have an open market. I don’t believe that is the case.

    Although philosophically, I would prefer to see no subsidies on any energy source, we currently have numerous subsidies on coal, oil, nuclear, etc. For nuclear power, for example, the U.S. taxpayer is essentially insuring private power producers through the Price-Anderson Act, thereby reducing the costs of these private companies.

    Politically, of course, taking away subsidies from well-heeled corporations–energy or otherwise–seems rather tough.


  3. Thanks for the comment Louis and thanks for pointing me to the Price-Anderson Act. I know such subsidies exist for nuclear and conventional gas and coal and its one of my next missions to try to find and understand them.

    Because that’s just the question… if we could accurately see how much of a lift tax payers are already giving these dirtier energy sources we might find that solar, wind, etc already out compete gas, oil, nuclear etc. without the help of “green” subsidies.


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