Solar technology is ready for immediate widespread use, but misguided government programs have caused severe delays and problems with solare energy development, according to a congressional study.
The House Commerce Committee Oversight subcommittee report released today says that "government programs have seriously underemphasized passive and lower-cost active solar applications, which are the most cost effective and least mechanically troublesome of existing . . . technologies."
According to subcommittee Chairman John Moss (D-Calif.), "Despite good intentions, federal efforts to date have resulted in the installation of too many relatively in the installation of too many relatively expensive, medchanically complex active solar devices that have experienced far too many problem."
The report also notes that there is no consumer protection mechnaism to protect against the "significant numbe of design, manufacturing and installation problems" the reprt claims have hampered many of the federally and privately sponsored solar demonstration programs.
The report accused the Department of Energy of favoring the more expensive and less-cost-effective active solar systems that give the impression that practical solar use in the home is decades away.
"If the causes of these problems are not properly identified and promptly remedied," Moss said, "the increase in sales of solar systems generated by the tax credit will backfire, and consumer acceptance of this important energy technology will be set back for years."
The report calls on the Federal Trade Commission ot issue rules controlling the sales claims of solar companies, and the Internal Revenue Service to correct what it called "discriminatory" tax subsidy guidelines.
In one New England study cited by the report, only 13 of 100 solar water heating systems functioned well. "The other 77 systems had at least one major stoppage that required a technician to repair," the report stated. "Out of these 77, 20 had severely interrupted and unreliable service and 23 had very low or no energy savings."