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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 7, 2010

A Feed-in Tariff Means More Market Competition

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/feed-tariff-means-more-market-competition/

The world’s most effective clean energy policy – the feed-in tariff – isn’t a government program, but rather reshapes the electricity market to favor renewable energy production.  And it increases competition, as well. 

An even more appealing outcome of this innovative program is that it has decentralized Germany’s energy market. Whereas four major utilities used to control all of the electricity production in the country, the guaranteed access to the grid and the fixed credit have opened up the electricity market, rapidly decentralizing the country’s energy oligarchy. The shift has been so dramatic that utilities only account for a tenth of the entire renewable electricity market in the country. Instead, it is small businesses, families and farmers that are responsible for producing the vast majority of the clean energy used in the country. This has ensured that the economic benefits of clean energy have been broadly distributed – helping to ensure that more Germans will benefit from the boon and creating even greater support for the industry. [emphasis mine]

Decentralizing renewable energy production means more widely shared economic benefits and more political support for renewable energy. 

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 6, 2010

How Renewable Incentives Affect Project Ownership

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/how-renewable-incentives-affect-project-ownership/

In less than a month, solar energy projects will see the stimulus-funded cash grant in lieu of the 30 percent tax credit expire. The change back to tax-credit-financed projects provides a revealing look at the disadvantages of energy incentives based on the tax code.  See what our energy blogger, John Farrel, has to say about this development and the recent news coverage about it. Read the full post over at our Energy Self Reliant States web site.  Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 6, 2010

Improving Economics of Distributed Generation

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/improving-economics-distributed-generation/

“The economics of sub-utility scale renewable energy continue to improve at a rapid pace…This downward price curve is fueling demand for distributed solar PV and small wind systems as an alternative to centralized power generation.”

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 6, 2010

How Renewable Incentives Affect Project Ownership

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/how-renewable-incentives-affect-project-ownership-2/

In less than a month, solar energy projects will see the stimulus-funded cash grant in lieu of the 30 percent tax credit expire.  The change back to tax-credit-financed projects provides a revealing look at the disadvantages of energy incentives based on the tax code, thanks especially to a recent NY Times story about the shift. … Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 3, 2010

New Montana PSC Commissioners Scapegoat Wind for Higher Electricity Costs, but Coal is Costlier

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/new-montana-psc-commissioners-scapegoat-wind-higher-electricity-costs-coal-costlier/

You can’t make this stuff up. 

Montana’s two newly elected Public Service Commissioners put out numbers, during their campaigns, purporting to show that electricity from renewable energy sources – specifically, wind – is more expensive than electricity from fossil fuels like coal.

Problem is, the truth is the exact opposite.  And these two people now regulate the electricity industry in Montana.  Kudos to citizen Ben Brouwer of AERO and the Billings News for getting to the truth:

Here are the comparative wholesale prices for electricity that [the state's largest private utility] NorthWestern Energy [NWE] acquires from different sources:

• Colstrip Unit 4 (coal): $56.05 per megawatt hour (MWh)

• PPL (mix of coal & hydro): $48.75 per MWh

• Judith Gap (wind): $29.25 per MWh, plus $8-13 per MWh for “integration” costs

• Energy Efficiency: $4.80 per MWh

Turns out the most expensive power acquisition for NWE is coal, with wind and energy efficiency being the least costly.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 2, 2010

Eight Reasons Distributed Power Generation Is Superior To Central Power Station Expansion

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/eight-reasons-distributed-power-generation-superior-central-power-station-expansion/

Key benefits of distributed power generation (DP). Proven technologies for DP are widely scalable. Obvious example: a wind farm can be incrementally built in multiples of approximately 1.4 MW. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean “cheaper” for DP. Customers can match the DP capacities to precisely known needs and not have to over-buy equipment. (see Figure 1… Continue reading

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Article filed under General | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Dec 1, 2010

The First Internet: The Post Office and the Public Interest

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/first-internet-post-office-and-public-interest/

In the beginning, there was the post office. Before the Internet, before cable, before TV, before radio, mail delivery was our major means of mass communication. The founders of the United States understood its importance and deemed that it must be a public institution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7, of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall have Power to establish Post Offices and Post Roads.”

Congress wanted the U.S. Post Office to be a monopoly, but the Post Office still had to deal with private companies that found loopholes in these rules.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 30, 2010

Distributed Concentrating Solar Thermal Power? Yes.

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/distributed-concentrating-solar-thermal-power-yes/

When discussing centralized v. decentralized solar power, there’s an inevitable comparison between solar thermal electric power and solar photovoltaic (PV).  But the fact is that solar thermal power – or concentrating solar power (CSP) – can also be done in a distributed fashion. In fact, of the 21 operational CSP plants in the world, 18… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 24, 2010

A Call for a Federal Feed-in Tariff

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/call-federal-feed-tariff/

The CEO of a leading Indian solar energy firm issues a call for a U.S. federal feed-in tariff in yesterday’s New York Times:

Two things happened last month to give us pause to reflect on clean energy. First, Germany added the equivalent of nearly 1 percent of its electricity supply with solar energy between January and August. The first 1 percent took 10 years to achieve; the next 1 percent just 8 months. Second, the author of this revolution, Hermann Scheer, died.


The United States is one of the two top energy consumers in the world (along with China), so the world cares how fast America becomes convinced that there is a viable replacement to fossil fuels. The domestic American market should reach 1,000 megawatts next year. But to put that in perspective, Germany next year could add 1,000 megawatts in just 1.5 months.

To catch up, President Barack Obama needs to push for a federal feed-in tariff, or a mandate for states to have one, and fund it with a surcharge on conventional power — small enough to pass, but big enough to move solar away from cumbersome grants and tax incentives that come and go with the annual budget circus.

I recently wrote about the legacy of Hermann Scheer, and you can also read our comprehensive explanation of a feed-in tariff.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 23, 2010

PACE Lawsuits Up for Decision on December 2nd

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/pace-lawsuits-decision-december-2nd/

In mid-October, yet another municipality joined the growing list of lawsuits against the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac over the popular Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.  Arguments in the court case will be heard next week.

A federal judge will consider next week whether to dismiss lawsuits questioning the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s decision to effectively shut down a White House-supported home energy efficiency program.

In a closely watched case, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of the Northern District of California will hear arguments Dec. 2 over whether to dismiss several lawsuits against the agency, including one filed by the state of California.

I’m hopeful that the plaintiffs can win – PACE could really open the door to major improvements in home energy efficiency and expansion of distributed renewable energy.

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