The Dark Side of Solar: How the Rising Solar Industry Empowers Political Interests that could Impede a Clean Energy Transition

Fossil fuels still supply most of the world’s energy needs. Today, solar power provides just 2 percent of the world’s electricity, and the generation of electricity, in turn, accounts for just a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. To avert catastrophic climate change, the world will have to nearly eliminate its emissions shortly after mid century—a goal known as deep decarbonization—which will require the most ambitious overhaul of the world’s energy infrastructure in human history. The next section of this paper provides a brief history of the solar industry, chronicles the rise of a politically powerful solar advocacy coalition, and explains the potential for a growing divergence between the interests of solar advocates and the goal of global decarbonization. The following section examines three warning signs of such a divergence between the interests of solar advocates and the goal of global decarbonization. Finally, the paper concludes with recommendations to U.S. policymakers, and to advocates.