Thursday, January 21, 2016

Are electric cars and residential solar seriously green?

Some necessary cynicism about many things "green"

Ross McKitrick: The electric car is dead, executed by Al Gore and his environmental allies
As reported by Bloomberg news on Jan. 7, even as U.S. auto sales hit a record high in 2015, demand for electric vehicles fell by 17 per cent. Automakers are already taking losses on these vehicles, which they are forced to sell to comply with misguided government mandates. Despite the implicit subsidy, consumers can do the math and prefer the savings, convenience and reliability of ordinary gasoline-powered cars. 
So who engineered this calamity? I suggest (only a little tongue-in-cheek) that it was none other than Al Gore, along with his allies in the environmental movement. In the aftermath of Gore’s 2006 global warming doom-flick An Inconvenient Truth, and his massively-funded worldwide policy advocacy, governments around the world embraced renewables, especially wind and solar energy. Everywhere this has been tried, the result has been soaring electricity prices. You won’t get people into electric cars if they can’t afford to plug them in.
Read Ross McKitrick's entire column at the Financial Post.

Citing this cynicism is necessary as I live in Ontario: I've abandoned heating and cooking with electricity because it became far too punitive financially, and because there seems to be no foresight with electric vehicle proponents - specifically in terms of paying for the roads required for any vehicle to have utility.

From Georgia, U.S.A.,EV sales in Georgia plummet after tax credit repealed

Georgia used to have one of the most generous EV incentives in the nation — a $5,000 tax credit. That was enough to lower the monthly cost of a lease by about $200. As a result, Georgia became one of the bright spots in the nation for EV sales. Nissan promoted the Georgia credit in its advertising, which led to a boom in sales and leases of its LEAF electric car.
Then last year, the Georgia legislature repealed the tax credit. To add insult to injury, they also imposed a $200 yearly fee on EV drivers to help maintain the roads. Since EVs typically use little if any gas, that deprives the state of much needed revenue from the gasoline tax.
Since the tax credit was repealed, sales of EVs in Georgia are down 90%...
Sharing in the costs of necessary infrastructure doesn't only hurt electric vehicles.
From Seeking Alpha, Will Solar And Home Batteries Disrupt The Electric Utility Business Model?
The combination of solar and bad ratemaking has already led to a situation where households with solar receive a subsidy from the general body of utility customers, and it's possible that home batteries could make the situation worse. In Nevada, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) recently took steps to begin to revise NV Energy's net metering rates, finding that net metering customers have received a subsidy from other customers. The PUCNquantified the subsidy resulting from the shift of fixed costs from net metering customers to other customers at $623 per year and $471 per year in southern Nevada and northern Nevada, respectively. [Note that I have not done any independent analysis of the PUCN's quantification of the subsidy to net metering customers.] NV Energy's parent company is Berkshire Hathaway Energy, a privately-held company. Rather than being based on the avoided wholesale cost of electricity, Nevada's net metering tariffs had the effect of simply reversing the direction of the meter when electricity was sold to the electric utility, allowing net metering customers to avoid the entire cost of taking service from the utility during the period.
The problem for SolarCity and other purveyors of solar based on PPAs is that they assumed that the current subsidies to net metering customers would persist long into the future. Once Nevada rationalized their net metering tariffs, however, SolarCity announced its plans to exit from Nevada.
To read the entire article, free registration at Seeking Alpha is required.

Kennedy Maize has also written on the topic in Nevada’s Solar Move Makes Economic Sense:
The argument over the economics of distributed solar versus utility solar got played out in the real world in Nevada earlier this year. Utilities won decisively. While there is much gnashing of teeth and moaning of doom from the rooftop troops, the outcome is positive for most Nevada electricity consumers — those who don’t have solar but pay for costs imposed by those who do.
At some point, is seems to me, questions such as maintaining electrical grids, and roads, needs to become a concern of "green" technologies if they are to be emerging technologies instead of temporary trends.

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