Monday, January 27, 2014

Politics and power: Clowns to the left, jokers to the right

first the politics, then the economist;

How the Left Came to Reject Cheap Energy for the Poor The Breakthrough Institute
...environmental groups constructed economic analyses and models purporting to show that expensive intermittent renewables like solar panels and biomass-burners were in fact cheaper than grid electricity. The catch, of course, was that they were cheaper because they didn’t actually deliver much electricity...
And so the Left went from viewing cheap energy as a fundamental human right and key to environmental restoration to a threat to the planet and harmful to the poor. In the name of “appropriate technology” the revamped Left rejected cheap fertilizers and energy. In the name of democracy it now offers the global poor not what they want — cheap electricity — but more of what they don’t want, namely intermittent and expensive power. "
Fissures in G.O.P. as Some Conservatives Embrace Renewable Energy | New York Times
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In conservative politics, solar power is often dismissed as an affectation, part of a liberal agenda to funnel money to “solar cronies” of the Obama administration and further the “global warming hoax.”
So one would not expect to see Barry Goldwater Jr., the very picture of modern conservatism and son of the 1964 Republican nominee for president, arguing passionately on behalf of solar energy customers. But there he was last fall, very publicly opposing a push by Arizona’s biggest utility to charge as much as $100 a month to people who put solar panels on their roofs.
...conservatives are even joining forces with environmental groups. In Georgia, a Tea Party activist and the Sierra Club formed a “Green Tea Coalition.”
As a result, solar power is fast becoming one of the fracture lines dividing the conservative movement’s corporate and libertarian sides.
I first read The Breakthrough Institute article and didn't find the left very left.
Having read the New York Times article I didn't find the right very right either.

Thankfully, a fresh post at the Energy Institute as HAAS to properly frame the matter without the ideological nonsense.
The Politics of Renewable Energy | Energy Economics Exchange
The fights being played out across the country are about the fairness, and sustainability, of solar policies that shift the fixed costs of network infrastructure to customers without solar. I am frustrated how verifiable facts are reported as “arguments” instead of checked and reported as true or false. The Edison Foundation “argues” that non-energy charges account for 55% of an electric bill on average. The fact that a big part – usually a majority – of a residential electric bill covers costs other than generation is not an “argument,” it’s a truth.
...We have been recovering fixed costs with variable rates for so long that people do not realize what the costs really are. At one time it was perhaps reasonably fair and financially viable to pro-rate fixed charges according to a home’s energy use. As some homes approach very low levels of net energy use, that is no longer fair or financially viable.
The “freedom from the utility argument” would carry a lot more weight if folks were in fact not using the expensive grid infrastructure they complain about paying for. However the vast majority of solar installations do not allow one to even power a house during a black-out, let alone disconnect from the grid completely.
Liberals have come to embrace the notion that the costs of health-care risks should be pooled and shared by the general population. They do not seem to feel that way about energy infrastructure. The Republicans in this piece don’t want to pay (or don’t recognize) the costs of the grid either. Neither side of this “green-tea” coalition has the economics right.
Uncomfortable bottom line: it is unlikely your grid charges should go down much, regardless of how you reduce consumption or generate power for personal consumption.


  1. But the German people with solar panels on their roofs did not pay any EEG-Surcharge previously and now they have to pay 4.4 cent per consumed kWh, right?

    If the EEG-Surcharge represents the 25% of the final value of the consumed electricity in Germany, it's an increment of 0.7*25%=17.5% of the electricity price. It's unfair :-(

  2. Thanks for the comment.
    I don't think that is right, but I did when writing most of this post.
    I added to the orginal post with an end Note that quotes a source saying new rules won't apply to new units 10kW and smaller - while I was not sure they would be applied to any existing contracts, they surely don't look likely to apply to the vast majority of residential installations.
    I'll note, on fairness, the EEG-Surcharge was 2 cents/kWh in 2010, and is now 6.2 cents/kWh ... so those without feed-in tariff panels have seen an EEG increase not much different than the 4.4 cent change that would occur if this was applied retroactively.

    Regardless, what seems to be considered fair by Germany's government is honouring the existing contracts and charging the EEG-Surcharge on larger new installations.

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