Original date: February 8, 2011
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State regulators want more information before they will further consider CapX2020’s application to route a
high-voltage line through three western Wisconsin counties.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin recently sent the energy company consortium a three-page list
containing almost 100 data requests on the proposed project, which would extend in the state from Alma to a
substation to be built in the town of Onalaska.
The requests range from updated cost estimates for the plan and any alternative routes to potential effects on Continue reading
A serialized version of our new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 4 of 5. Click here for: Part 1 (The Electric System: Inflection Point) Part 2 (The Economics of Distributed Generation) Part 3 (The Political and Technical Advantages of Distributed Generation) Download the report. Regulatory Roadblocks / The Political System Despite technology’s march toward… Continue reading
ILSR’s new fact sheet on “FAQs: Why Choose Compostable Products for Food Service” explains what constitutes compostable products, where they are available, and the importance of working with local composters to ensure they are composted. Continue reading
If Germany’s 16 federal states had each enacted their own renewable energy legislation, we’d have far less solar energy usage. I often tell people that Germany has 400 types of beer and one renewables law, while the situation in the United States is the other way around.
The Golden State has covered over 50,000 roofs with solar PV in the past decade, but could it also save 30% or more on its current solar costs? Renewable energy guru Paul Gipe wrote up a study last week that found that Californians pay much more per kilowatt-hour of solar power than Germans do (accounting for the difference in the solar resource). The following chart outlines the various ways Californians pay for solar, compared to the Germans (averaged over 20 years, per kilowatt-hour produced).
While the study doesn’t explore the rationale, here are a few possibilities:
- The inefficiency of federal tax credits artificially inflates the cost of U.S. solar.
- Big banks that offer financing for residential solar leasing routinely overstate the value of the systems, increasing taxpayer costs on otherwise cost-effective systems.
- The complexity and intricacy of the state and federal incentives (4 separate pots of money!) and the lack of guaranteed interconnection means higher risk and higher cost for U.S. solar projects.
- The inconsistency in local permitting standards that increases project overhead costs.
Ultimately, the combination of these market-dampening problems in the California market has hindered the cost savings that have hit the German market. California solar installations of 25 kilowatts (kW) and 100 kW have a quoted price of $4.36 and $3.84 per Watt, respectively, according to the Clean Coalition. This compares to $3.40 per Watt on average for already installed projects of 10-100 kW in Germany.
Given a solar cost disadvantage that is present both in the value of incentives AND in the actual installed cost, renewable energy advocates in California should seriously question whether the current policy framework makes sense. The mish-mash of federal tax credits and state/utility rebates has not led to the same economies of scale and market maturity as Germany has accomplished with their CLEAN contract (a.k.a. feed-in tariff).
Switching energy policies could save ratepayers billions.
A 24-cent CLEAN contract price for California solar (to match the German contract) would replace the entire slate of existing solar incentives with an overall average cost 30% lower than the current combined incentives. If 2011 is a banner year and the state sees 1 gigawatt (GW) of installed capacity, the savings to ratepayers of a CLEAN program (over 20 years) would be nearly $3 billion.
If the CLEAN price were adjusted down to assume that projects could use the federal tax credit, then California could set the contract price as low as 18.5 cents per kWh, 5 cents less than is currently paid by California ratepayers (although requiring projects to use tax credits has significant liabilities).
Several states and municipal utilities (Vermont; Gainesville, FL; San Antonio, TX) have already shifted to this simple, comprehensive policy, with promising early results. Californians should consider whether holding to an outdated and complicated energy policy is worth paying billions of dollars extra for solar power.
SolarTimes editor Sandy LeonVest in conversation with energy researcher John Farrell, of the Institute for Local Self Reliance. They discuss “energy democracy” and John Farrell’s recently published report, “Democratizing the Electricity System.” Continue reading
In all the talk about the federal deficit, why is the single largest culprit left out of the conversation? Why is the one part of government that best epitomizes everything conservatives say they hate about government— waste, incompetence, and corruption—all but exempt from conservative criticism? Of course, I’m talking about the Pentagon. Any serious battle… Continue reading
With the vast majority of Americans greatly overpaying for slow and unreliable broadband compared to connections in Europe and Asia, hundreds of communities have started building their own networks. Continue reading
A serialized version of our new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 3 of 5. Click here for: Part 1 (The Electric System: Inflection Point) Part 2 (The Economics of Distributed Generation) Download the report. The Political and Technical Advantages of Distributed Generation While technology has helped change the economics of electricity production (in favor… Continue reading