If you dangle enough government money, someone will find a way to package it and sell it. Since the money’s already been made in packaging sub-prime mortgages, the financial wizards need to keep busy.

SolarCity is growing-and not because it has made a breakthrough in the design of solar panels. Rather, last year it developed a new model for selling the units, offering them for lease. Outside investors eager to take advantage of the tax credits and rebates associated with solar installation provide the cash, and homeowners are able to buy the electricity produced at a discount. “Customers pay no money down, and they save money from day one,” says CEO Lyndon Rive. “People want to go solar, but they don’t like to spend $30,000.”

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Government policy has traditionally played a part in kick-starting new technology, whether by providing land and financing for railroads or commissioning the first telegraph line. When the profit motive kicks in, the private sector begins to fund development.

As encouraging as this might seem for the advocates of renewable energy, ultimately it is you, as a taxpayer and a consumer, who is paying the bill.

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