How the renewable energy industry must react to political populism’s abandonment of clean power policies.

We’re seeing it everywhere. Populist leaders appealing to the pocketbook, to apparent self-interest and to a brand of nationalism that is unseen in decades. And they are often winning.

Where renewable energy is identified as a left-leaning political initiative, it is attacked by populists/nationalist/right wing politicians, as being expensive and not necessary. When we go deeper into the reasons, you’ll find the very same answers as with most other trends…follow the money.

While even the CEO of Shell Oil and the leader of Saudi Arabia recognize that oil must or will be phased out, there are politicians that prey on the ignorance of people to lead them to believe that renewable industry proponents are radicalized left-leaning people who only care to cost them lots of money. In the USA and now in Ontario (Canada’s most populated province) we see administrations that are bent on reversing decades of progress in cleaning up the energy industry, in favor of oil or coal industries that have suffered as clean energy has taken hold, reduced its costs and essentially reduced its dependence on subsidies.

And yet despite the reduction of subsidies, I have a feeling that renewable energy, now joined by clean electro-mobility, will continue to grow, albeit affected in the short term by the will of those politicians that are promising cheaper energy, without any consideration for the health or environmental damage they create.

My sense is that the train has left the station and that there is no turning back, although there can be a slowdown by certain parties. Look at the recent arrests of nearly 400 government individuals in China for not having held industry to the regulations their jobs were to enforce. So whether they signed up to Kyoto or not, they are faced with the real challenges produced by decades of abundant development without much are for the environment. Do we want our homes to become like China?

When you listen to certain institutes with their agendas or individuals, a lot of “about me” is heard. “I don’t want to pay more for energy because its clean”. “I want lower gas prices”. “I want the burden of clean energy programs removed”….a lot of “I, I, I”. Is this the kind of society you want to live in? Only you can decide.

As for me, I am coming up on 30 years in renewables next month. For the better part of that, my business did not depend on one red cent of subsidies for the purchase of our systems. I had identified from the start that my path would be to sell on merits, including the cleanliness of the energy products I was creating. Lately, with a turn towards solar canopies, there is no doubt that tax and subsidies play a role in helping make systems more affordable. While I will continue to sell our products on the merits of their clean power generation, iconic representation of a commitment to sustainability and the simple cool factor, I do hope that people will realize that its much better to live in a “we” world than a “me” world.

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