Thus, small-scale solar is called a "freeloader" and consumers are dissuaded from making their own power.
But there's a more important point driving some of renewable energy coverage that isn't always seen by investors: competition.
A vicious price war among Chinese polysilicon panel makers such as
(YGE - Get Report)
forced dozens of them out of business during 2011-2012, but the survivors have gotten costs below the cost of grid energy in many places across the U.S. It's this price war that has commentators at
calling renewable energy "down."
But this has created the first energy price war in decades. Natural gas is displacing coal, while solar and wind are taking increased loads. This isn't just happening in the U.S. -- coal is steadily losing its export markets as well. Half the planned coal export terminals in the U.S. Northwest, including one from gas pipeline giant
are being cancelled,
, because there just isn't enough demand.
For the first time this century, we're getting economic growth around the world without rising energy prices. This is a tipping point, a thumb on the scale, and while fracking can be credited with America's growing energy independence, in the developing world it's renewable technology that's supplying the increased demand.
Where do we go from here? The Chinese solar players aren't going away. Technology isn't going to stand still. Efficiency isn't going to stop being a priority. High-cost fossil energy suppliers are starting to face the same questions client-server computing suppliers are facing.
At the time of publication, the author was long KMP.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.