Fund Basic Incomes With Solar Energy

The ProblemBasic income pilot programs around the world have demonstrated their effectiveness in improving the lives of low and middle income recipients. But all current basic income programs are short-term, so the benefits end after a year or two, producing little permanent change. None of these pilot programs have enabled the urgently needed study of the long-term effects of basic incomes on recipients, their families, and the economy.  Not one of these programs is expected to graduate from temporary to permanent. Humanitarian foundations that have funded pilot programs won’t commit to permanent funding. Similarly, government jurisdictions funding pilot programs from tax money are reluctant to commit to permanent funding. The cost of a scaled-up and permanent program is too much for political leaders.
The SolutionA new source of funding is needed to transition from pilot to permanent basic incomes. Lessons can be learned from the single basic income program that has sustained itself for decades: the Alaska Permanent Fund. Created in 1976 from oil royalties, the Fund provides an annual Permanent Fund Dividend to every resident of Alaska in the amount of one to two thousand dollars. The Alaska example is a special case that cannot be duplicated everywhere, but it demonstrates that a sustainable basic income can be generated from a natural resource. For other jurisdictions, a better natural resource would be solar energy. Arrays of photovoltaic panels can generate electricity that is sold to consumers, generating a revenue stream that can be used to fund basic incomes that we can call “Solar Dividends”. Most jurisdictions have sufficient sunlight to economically generate electricity, and most could find locations to install solar panels on buildings, over parking lots, or along roadways.

The advantages of using Solar Dividends to fund basic incomes include:

The source of funding is sustainable and not a tax burden.

The solution is scalable by installing more panels as needed.

The co-benefits include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enabling energy resilience, and recirculating energy dollars in the local economy.