Thursday, January 30, 2014

The energy non-transition: everything's greener for constituencies with the green

I was struck by these 2 articles from Germany's wealthier south - which fit nicely with a third article supporting a recent theme on this blog: solar policies favouring the wealthy need to be altered, particularly in terms of altering utility charges to recover cost through service charges, not rates per unit consumed.

The first article, originally in German, is on the leader of Germany's richest state, Bavaria, and increasing the distance industrial wind turbines need to be from receptors (residences).  As translated (by Google):
MUNICH . Prime Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) has reached an important stage victory in the battle for wind power in Bavaria. He had long been advocating that the distances between establishments and residential areas are enlarged.
...the distance between the wind turbine and residential building is to be set at ten times the height of the plant. That would be about two kilometers in modern wind turbines.
Critics of the height-related distance usually seen in the end for the expansion of wind power in Bavaria. 
Next door, to the west of Bavaria, is the only slightly less wealthy Baden-Württemberg, which elected a coalition government lead by the Green Party, which would like to expand industrial wind turbines.  From the Renewable Interantional blog, in the wonderfully titled: An interview with Baden-Württemberg's Environmental Minister: "The economics speaks for itself":
Renewables International: Does the new federal government’s plan to reduce support for sites with little wind counteract all these efforts?

The coalition agreement says that turbines will have to reach 75-80 percent of the reference turbine’s output. If that becomes law, the consequences will be fatal for southern Germany, both Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Around half of the potential sites in our state would be affected.
But I am confident that we will be able to convince the federal government of the benefits of weak-wind sites. The industry has been focusing on such wind conditions for some time now, and capacity utilization now reaches levels similar to those in the best sites. If we want to have 80-100 percent renewable electricity, we will need turbines everywhere anyway.
 So we have one rich state wanting to avoid having wind turbines near people, and another rich state arguing the incentives for them to have wind should be greater because it isn't very windy there.
Bavaria is the largest net beneficiary of renewable subsidy schemes in Germany (due to solar installations)- almost makes one think the renewables are a distant second to wealth redistribution aspects of the schemes.

I noted the wealth distribution, to the already wealthier, was an aspect of solar in my recent post, Germany Tax on Own Use of Renewables: Battling Regressive Impacts.  My opinions were strengthened by a post at the Energy Economics Exchange, and now from the leader at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

It is clear that increasing penetration of renewable energy causes problems for utilities, even as its costs drop. Soaring percentages of wind and PV power reduce the capacity factors attainable for fossil-fuel plants and push the spot electricity price towards zero. Cheap renewable energy is also proving problematic for regulators and politicians: distributed PV is great for those households and businesses that have it, because they can generate more of their own power at an ever-more competitive cost, and sell the surplus back to the grid. Unfortunately, it is the have-nots who risk footing the bill as electricity prices soar because the fixed costs of all that electricity infrastructure have to be shared over the remaining customer base. 

There are only two solutions: either slow down the growth of solar power – and there are certainly utilities who are trying outright to do this – or move to some form of connection charge. Even consumers who buy no net power from the grid generally need to remain connected, selling excess power during the day and buying it back at night or when they put the kettle on. Or just as a back-up in case their system becomes unavailable for any reason. 

In the US late last year, regulators granted Arizona Public Service the power to impose a monthly charge of $0.70/kW on new solar customers. The APS had originally proposed a high fee of $8/kW. On 24 January, Bloomberg News revealed that the German cabinet has backed plans to charge operators of new renewable energy plants larger than 10kW in size a fee of EUR 0.044/kWh for electricity they have generated themselves and then consume. Spain has also proposed a charge on domestic PV owners in its latest energy bill. Details on how expensive this may be are likely within a month or so, but on Spain’s recent form as regards renewable energy, I fear it will be a lot more damaging to the PV sector than the Arizona charge. 

With luck, other jurisdictions will be more sensitive than Spain and not penalise distributed solar out of existence. I expect this debate to rumble on around the world during 2014, with utilities in a number of jurisdictions looking to shift the balance on consumers’ bills from charges per kWh towards charges for access to the grid and the associated services.

By the end of the year it will have become generally clear that consumers and voters prefer access charges to slowing down the shift to clean energy.
Liebreich may be underestimating the selfishness of the wealthy.
I doubt fighting fair increases in "access" charges will subside any time soon, justified by the cause of promoting solar power.

1 comment:

  1. Here's how to cut your power bill up to 75%:

    Want to know how to easily produce all of the green energy you could ever want right at home?

    And you’ll be able to make your home totally immune from power outages, blackouts, and energy grid failures
    so even if everyone else in your area (or even the whole country) loses power…you won’t.