Lt. Gen. Russel Honore Credit: Green Army

A little sunshine can be a good thing. In Louisiana, a little sunshine has given rise to a brand new industry as an important part of Louisiana’s expanding energy economy – solar power.

The solar power industry has lifted the burden of expensive utility bills off the backs of thousands of residents. Even though we think of power as cheap in our energy-producing state, we still have the 23rd highest utility bills in the country, which means it is often difficult for retirees and working families to pay their bills and put food on the table. Our folks here in Louisiana deserve to have a choice about how they power their homes and solar leasing gives them just that.

Solar has also created a workforce of highly trained and well-paid workers – over 3600 direct and indirect jobs in Louisiana at recent count. Last year across the nation one in eight new jobs was a solar job. We need those good jobs here in Louisiana badly. Those solar jobs buffer us from the wills of foreign governments that force energy markets and energy jobs up and down.

A little sunshine is always good thing on Louisiana’s political process as well. The out of state utility special interests that are more interested in selling power than producing savings want to keep our residents from solar choice. Once again, they put their profits over protecting our air, water and land from pollution with clean solar power. They’ll use every trick in the book and say anything to convince folks that freedom and choice aren’t as important as preserving the monopolies that utilities have.

The freedoms that solar leasing brings to families are important and we need to defend them.

House Bill 779 that was slated for a hearing in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee on May 18* is backed by those out-of-state special interests. If they have their way, it would put an end to solar leasing in Louisiana. Leasing makes solar systems available to people of low and moderate means because through leasing they can avoid the considerable, up-front costs of purchasing a system.

Although their utility bill savings are not as great as if they had purchased a system, they are significant and meaningful, especially to working families of low and moderate means. If solar leasing incentives are killed, that means only rich folks who can afford to spend $25,000 up front would receive the benefits of solar. You shouldn’t have to have that much pocket change to be able to afford to cut your utility bill by an average of more than $1,000 a year.

The freedoms that solar leasing brings to families are important and we need to defend them. In the United States, we have the freedom of choice and no one should be able to take that away, no matter how rich or poor a person is.

Don’t let anyone take away our beautiful Louisiana sunshine. Tell your state senator to save solar leasing by voting no on HB 779!

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore led the U.S. Army response to Hurricane Katrina. Now retired from active military service, he commands the Green Army, a citizen uprising in defense of Louisiana’s environment and the best interests of the general public.  

*This column was first posted prior to the hearing; the sentence was modified as the date of the hearing came and went.