When special interest groups try to help (1 of 2)


When special interest groups try to help… they’re typically trying to help themselves.  In the case of solar, when special interest groups try to help, they end up hurting the entire industry more often than not.  It’s because they’re only thinking of themselves. Take for example the first occasion in 2008.  The law I wrote, the Renewable Energy Development Act of 2003, read here, allowed Louisianans to Net Meter.

I set caps of 25kw (residential) and 100kw (commercial) for the specific purpose to demonstrate to the utilities that no harm would come from this law.  By 2008, I installed the largest commercial system (to date) soon after, a 30kw Net Metered system for a country club.  The utility found there was no grid failure or disruption.  The next logical step would have been for systems to have been installed around the state at maybe 60kw and then a few at 100kw to further demonstrate Net Metering.

A solar “wanna-be” hijacked a defunct group known as the Renewables Council of Louisiana.  He then converted it to a solar special interest “trade” group (more about this individual later) and thought he would tinker with the law by arbitrarily raising the commercial cap to 300kw, accomplishing nothing.  He enlisted Senator Nick Gautreaux to file the bill.  The intent was to “do something” with solar so he could say they had done something for solar.  Act 543.  What they did unintentionally was to open up the original law to harmful amendments, all for the sake of “doing something” for solar.  More about this later. Why did this guy and his special interest group select Senator Gautreaux in 2008?  Most people do not know that in 2007 Gautreaux introduced a solar tax credit bill along with several other lawmakers.

Upon studying all four of them, Wade Byrd (a retired DNR employee and solar enthusiast) and I backed the Gautreaux bill.  We did this for one reason only.  His bill had accidentally (or miraculously) been given a “Zero Fiscal Note” by the legislative fiscal office!  See here.  (This means there is no cost to the state associated with the credit).  Wade and I went to the capital and testified before committee that Gautreaux’s tax credit bill was the one that would help the solar industry grow and develop.  Wade and I were the only ones there since there were no other solar companies or people, and no one knew about or cared about solar at that point.

At that time I owned and operated the only solar power company in the state, Gulf South Solar, (and had for five years, since 2003) and Gautreaux just wanted a tax credit for himself or a friend to get solar.  The other bills were forgotten and SB90 became Act 371, partly due to the testimony the three of us gave before committee, and mostly due to the accidental “Zero Fiscal Note”.

(Continue to part 2 of 2 here)