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Department of Energy Invests Additional $46M in Struggling Solar Energy Sector

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InsideSources covers a coalition letter, including CEI, urging the House Appropriations Committee to cut the SunShot program.

When it comes to solar power, the forecast seems only partially sunny. The industry has long benefitted from federal subsidies, but the future of these programs is uncertain. On Wednesday, the Department of Energy announced that it was investing $46.2 million in 48 solar energy projects as part of its SunShot Initiative. The timing of the investment is somewhat unusual, though, since the industry has struggled in recent years. Investor interest in solar energy companies has been declining for several years, the result of a slew of major bankruptcies and overall difficulty bringing the technology successfully to market.

“The SunShot Initiative is a proven driver of solar energy innovation,” SunShot Initiative Director Charlie Gay said. “These projects ensure there’s a pipeline of knowledge, human resources, transformative technology solutions, and research to support the industry.”

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Supporters of the program say that it has succeeded in several of its goal so far. Last year, the program boasted that over the first five years of the initiative, the installed price of utility-scale solar without incentives had fallen 70 percent. Its goal was a consumer price of $0.06 per kilowatt hour for residential energy. At the end of 2015, solar prices were as low as $0.11/kWh.

As a result of these conflicting signals, the future of the SunShot program–and much of the federal government’s investment in solar energy–will likely rest with Congress. Already, the program is in the crosshairs of pro-taxpayer groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, and the American Energy Alliance, who wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee in late April specifically targeting SunShot as a program to cut.

“In practice, the initiative fuels lobbying and cronyism on a massive scale,” the letter said, noting that solar energy prices had failed to decline at the same rate as conventional energy, despite the existence of the program.

“The SunShot Initiative is ground zero of the solar subsidy machine, and needs to go,” it concluded.

Read the full article at InsideSources.