It is harder to hand out subsidies than you think, or at least hard to do it well.
The Arizona Republic explains some of the difficulties utilities in the state are having with their renewable energy subsidy programs. For example, when Salt River Project announced it was going to cut it’s subsidy for home residential solar installations, a rush of last-minute applications for the higher subsidy rate cost the utility millions.
When Arizona Public Service saw its subsidy budget running out, it too dropped its subsidy rate, but to avoid a last minute rush like SRP, Arizona Public Service cut it’s rebate without advance notice. The sudden change surprised contractors and consumers who had consummated deals without knowing that the rebate had changed, and many of the consumers then wanted out of the deals.
One of the problems highlighted in the article comes from a whipsaw effect on contractors who see booms and busts in installation businesses when subsidy rates jump around. Of course these difficulties don’t have anything to do with renewable power per se, just with the general difficulty of program design and implementation. So don’t go thinking, “Aha, I knew renewable power was bad all along.”
(However, if you come away from the story thinking, “Aha, I knew electric utilities were not very sophisticated in understanding consumer behavior beyond what shows up in a load profile ….”)