First Solar joins carbon tax campaign


Americans for Carbon Dividends (ACD), a bipartisan carbon tax advocacy group led by two former senators has gained two powerful partners in their fight: First Solar and Exelon Corp.

ACD follows the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan, which looks to establish a rising tax on carbon emissions, enforced at the point where fossil fuels enter the market. The tax would begin at $40 a ton, which would be distributed via dividend checks to the public. According to ACD’s model, at the $40 per ton rate a family of four would receive $2,000 annually.

The partnership is a bit of a paradox from a market perspective. Exelon and First Solar are in direct competition with one another, with the former being the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States and the latter the one of largest suppliers of solar panels for the U.S. market.

ACD touts the claim that economists support a carbon tax as the most effective and efficient way to cut down on emissions. However, to date carbon pricing schemes have not been effective at supporting renewable energy deployment, and have not been a priority for the solar and wind industries. At the recent Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street, results of a poll by American Council for Renewable Energy (ACORE) showed that other policy options were considered far more important by industry participants.

Greg Bertelsen, Senior Vice President at the Climate Leadership Council feels that attaining these two key partnerships could change those sentiments.

A price on carbon sends a signal to the economy to transition to lower-carbon sources of energy: to innovators to develop new technologies to power a clean energy future. I think the fact that large renewable players are invested in this effort is an indication of potential upside for renewables under a program like the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividend Proposal

First Solar declined to comment on why it would support a policy to price carbon, referring pv magazine instead to ACD.

This is not the first time that First Solar has taken a political position that differs from the rest of the solar industry. The company has previously had a relationship with the Edison Electric institute (EEI), a trade group of utilities that has led policy efforts to dismantle net metering and has propagated the myth that recipients of net metering “shifts costs” to other utility customers.

However, the move wasn’t illogical. First Solar’s products are used almost exclusively for utility-scale installations, and therefore it has no business interest in rooftop solar.

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