Solar Power is a Moral Issue

This is the work of the Indiana Moral Mondays Environmental Justice group:
Solar power is a moral issue

posted by Frank Rosenthal
March 10, 2015

In keeping with its values of social and economic justice and the use of resources for the common good, Indiana Moral Mondays stands for the promotion of renewable sources of energy.

Our current use of energy is unsustainable. It is causing air pollution resulting in tens of thousands of premature deaths and health disorders, such as asthma, birth defects, etc. It results in high releases of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, that is increasing global warming. The cost of energy for homes and transportation is a major burden on low-income people, with the proportion of income spent on it being greater at lower incomes.

Solar power can help. First, solar power is an inherently cleaner form of energy production. It does not produce air pollution. Unlike the use of most other sources of power generation, there are no emissions. Although there are some marginal environmental burdens associated with its original installation and eventual recycling of materials, these are much less than those associated with the use of conventional energy sources. Second, solar power is sustainable. It is not subject to diminishing supplies, fuel prices, and environmental risks. Third, solar systems can reduce the economic burden on people by giving them the option to produce their own power, and sell some of it back to power companies. Once the hardware is paid for, electricity continues to be generated, free of charge. Fourth, the expansion of solar power in Indiana will bring needed jobs in manufacturing, installing and maintaining the systems. Finally, per kilowatt-hour of power produced, solar power contributes much less to global warming than non-renewable forms of power generation. All of these considerations are particularly important for minority and low-income populations, the disabled and the elderly. Air pollution levels are highest in these communities, and affect people disproportionately due to relatively poorer overall health. People in these communities are more at risk economically from rising fuel prices and can benefit from added employment opportunities. These communities and populations will also be hit hardest by global warming. The predicted impacts on public health, due to climate change, will impact them the most, as will the predicted rise of food prices and water shortages. Also, the elderly and indigent have less access to air conditioned environments and are more prone to heat injury during heat waves.

Recently, the cost of solar power has been decreasing dramatically . This presents the possibility of increasing the proportion of electricity is produced by solar power, which is currently very small. Policies to encourage the use of solar energy should be encouraged at the State and Federal level. A bill (HB 1320), proposed in this session of the Indiana State legislature, would have cut the financial incentives for installing solar power systems by reducing the amount of credit that people can get by feeding generated power back into the “grid” (“net metering”) . This bill was heavily supported by the utility companies and by conservative political groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Fortunately, the bill has not gone forward in the current legislative session. But we should be vigilant about any new attempts to derail progress in increasing the use of renewable energy sources. And we should strongly encourage efforts to advance the use of solar power to satisfy energy needs.