Renewable Energy Goes Bust in Europe - Lessons for Obama?

President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech last week declared:

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it.  And we’ve begun to change that.  Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.  So let’s generate even more.  Solar energy gets cheaper by the year -- let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.

Must we really? According to news reports, fiscal pressures in Spain and Germany are causing them to renege on their expensive promises to subsidize solar and wind power. Reuters is reporting:

The Spanish Parliament approved a law on Thursday that cuts subsidies for alternative energy technologies, backtracking on its push for green power.

That measure, along with other recent laws including a tax on power generation that hit green energy investments especially hard, will virtually wipe out profits for photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind plants, sector lobbyists say...

Spain's Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria defended the law in Parliament on Thursday, saying that the measures were necessary to eliminate the accumulated 28 billion euro ($37.4 billion) tariff deficit in the electricity system...

That deficit, built up through years of the government holding down electricity prices at a level that would not cover regulated costs including renewables premiums, is at the heart of Spain's energy sector woes...

The problem was that the cost of the subsidies were not passed on fully to consumers because that would have pushed prices to unprecedented highs.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the German government is also cutting back on subsidies as it experiences renewable energy fiscal woes:

Germany subsidizes producers of renewable energy such as solar and wind power in part by imposing a surcharge on household electricity bills. As the industry has grown, demand for the subsidy increased, driving the surcharge higher. In January, the surcharge, which amounts to about 14% of electricity prices, nearly doubled to 5.28 euro cents per kilowatt hour. Large energy-intensive industries are exempted.

That means ordinary consumers shoulder the lion's share of the costs for what the German government calls its "energy revolution."

Fearing a voter backlash from anger over the lopsided financing of green energy, Ms. Merkel's government on Thursday proposed putting a cap on the green-energy surcharge until the end of 2014 and then restricting any rise in the surcharge after that to no more than 2.5% a year. The government also plans to tighten exemptions, which would force more companies to pay, and achieve a cut in green subsidies of €1.8 billion ($2.42 billion). The plan is a quick fix pending comprehensive reform after the election, government officials said.

On the other hand, one Motley Fool financial analyst is gung-ho and thinks that "2013 Is the Year of Solar." Why? Because the price of solar panels has fallen steeply in the past three years. Analyst Travis Holum asserts:

Today, highly subsidized markets are giving way to unsubsidized (or less subsidized) markets where solar can compete on its own with traditional energy sources. The cost to produce a module has fallen 54% in the past three years, and the cost to produce solar energy is now less than it cost to buy it from the grid in some places. Going green isn't just a political game anymore -- it's economic reality.

I doubt it, but no subsidies, then no problems. However, the 2017 levelized cost estimates (takes into account fuel costs) for various power sources by the Energy Information Admnistration finds that solar photovoltaic will still be much more expensive than coal (even with carbon capture), natural gas, nuclear, and wind.

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  • Paul.||

    Time for some New Earth Army technology to transform the planet!

    Obama to employ Sparkly Eyes technique on world's populations.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The industry leader, First Solar, is up 300% in six months - not exactly a "bust".

    I doubt it, but no subsidies, then no problems.

    The key point.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug| 2.19.13 @ 2:01PM |#
    "The industry leader, First Solar, is up 300% in six months - not exactly a "bust"."

    Dipshit, no one ever said rent seeking won't pay.

  • tarran||

    He smells of urine and screams at walls. What makes you think he has any connection to reality?

  • CampingInYourPark||

    What he doesn't tell you is that 6 months ago the stock was at an all time low. In May 2008 this piece of crap was trading at 311 and is a whopping 38 today.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The Great Recession + market overreaction did that.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "The Great Recession + market overreaction did that."

    The "Great Recession" didn't happen 6 months ago.

  • Sudden||

    Really? Because it's "great recession" low point was just under $100 in late 2008. It hadn't dropped below 100 again until mid 2011, and has been tanking since then.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Sounds like a bubble fueled by governmental policy.

  • rts||

    FSLR, up 67% over the last 6 months.

    Down 83% from 5 years ago.

  • Aresen||

    In stock market terms, that is referred to as 'a dead cat bounce.'

  • GILMORE||

    you twatmonkey.... FSLR *is* up to 36 from 12 this year...

    ...but down from $200+ over the last 5 yrs. only a complete fucking nutsack like you could cast this shitshow as a victory. in the famous words of hank paulson, "better is not good". And a industry reliant on mandate and subsidy isnt either

  • Sevo||

    "Today, highly subsidized markets are giving way to unsubsidized (or less subsidized) markets where solar can compete on its own with traditional energy sources."
    Assertion absent citation.
    Cite or shut up.

  • ||

    Obama doesn't learn lessons. He's already omnipotent.

  • Almanian!||

    Obama IS a lesson. A lesson for which none of us is worthy.

    REPENT!

  • tarran||

    He's already omnipotent.

    It's omniscient you verminous whelkivore.

  • Timon 19||

    I just googled "whelkivore". There are TWO results, one of which is this comment thread. Well done!

  • rts||

    "Learning lessons" implies a certain level of self-awareness that Obama clearly does not posses.

  • JW||

    solar photovoltaic will still be much more expensive than coal (even with carbon capture), natural gas, nuclear, and wind.

    Then we just have to make those other energy sources more expensive. Duh.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Solar is only more expensive in the first year.

  • Almanian!||

    By itself, that's utterly meantingless.

    So, par for the course, Shriek. Good boy!

  • Enough About Palin||

    Hi Shrike. Let me give you a little insight. I work for the god damned electric company. It's the one that's valued at about $10 Billion at the moment. Have been here 10 years primarily in Business Development. We do billion dollar deals and develop billion dollar generation projects. That being said, everything you say about the electricity industry is total bullshit.

    Granted, our 1st Amendment rights guarantee that anyone can write anything they want about anything they want. They can even do it via the published media. In fact, it doesn't even have to be accurate in order to be published. And that same 1st Amendment right guarantees your right to read what they've written.

    And therein lies your problem.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    So solar is a fraud and will never be cost effective?

    Keep going.

  • Professional Target||

    It will not be cost effective as the major source of power for the foreseeable future. ROI runs into decades.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Thanks.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    ROI is not the same as "only more expensive in the first year".

    I am being literal. Solar is only more expensive in the first year - period.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    What? Are you only applying the cost of the equipment to the first year?

  • Almanian!||

    CAUSE IT'S ALREADY PAID FOR AFTER THAT!!!! DUH!!!

  • Brett L||

    No. Last time I looked (2011) the ROI on solar was 15 years and the average lifetime of a panel was 10. So you can probably see the problem.

  • Almanian!||

    Not seeing the problem.

    /shriek

  • Professional Target||

    I am being literal. Solar is only more expensive in the first year - period.

    That's like saying a new car is only expensive the first year. Unless you have that kind of money lying around, you're making payments. Even if you do, it's lost investment income.

  • Rasilio||

    Actually dipshit the problem with solar isn't even it's cost effectiveness it is simple math.

    Even doing the relatively minor job of replacing 25% of our current (not future, just current) Fossil Fuel Usage with PV panels which are 50% more efficient than currently existing ones would require covering land area roughly equivalent to the State of North Dakota to be completely covered with solar panels, and even there we are assuming that that much open land exists in optimal locations recieving as much sunlight as Las Vegas somewhere reasonably near every major city.

    The simple fact is that the Solar flux at ground level is not concentrated enough of an energy source for solar to ever be more than a minor auxiliary power system

  • Professional Target||

    Solar is only more expensive in the first year.

    Speaking as someone who installed solar, wrong! First, you forget the time cost of money. Photovoltaic system ROI runs into decades. Solar pre-heater water systems are better, but don't provide electricity.

    For PV systems to run without the grid requires some method to store power collected through the day, to be used at night, typically deep cycle glass-mat batteries, which must be maintained and replaced on a schedule. If instead you run with the grid, grid capacity cannot be efficiently reduced because you have simply shifted your demand instead of replacing it.

  • kinnath||

    You are one extrordinarily stupid muther fucker.

  • Raston Bot||

    Great- so I can expect no more idiocy about feed-in tariffs from local and state pols.

  • Enough About Palin||

    "Must we really?"

    OUR FEELINGS SAY WE MUST!

  • kinnath||

    Photovoltaic generation has no viable purpose except to provide electricity in locations where the cost of connecting to the grid is prohibitive.

    Wind potentially has a sound business case, but solar panels are a total dog.

  • Professional Target||

    PV has lots of viable purposes, but no one examining the current science has reason to believe it will drive fossil fuels and nuclear out as the main sources for electrical power in the foreseeable future.

  • kinnath||

    Name one that doesn't involve using electricity in a remote location.

  • Aresen||

    Keeping Team Blue "enviros" from jumping to the Green Party.

  • Professional Target||

    Name one that doesn't involve using electricity in a remote location.

    1) Backup power for when you lose grid electricity.

  • kinnath||

    Way down the list of viable technologies.

    I have a natural gas standby generator that can run half the house. It cost 10% of what the solar panels would cost to provide the same level of service. And it works even in the middle of the night.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    If you get a small oil well on your property you can earn literally dollars a month, but you might be able to take advantage of a permanent supply of casing gas.

  • Professional Target||

    If you have natural gas to your residence and it's reliable, true. My setup works in the middle of the night with deep-cycle battery storage.
    I contracted to put it in shortly before the highest incentives went away. Because of them the feds, state, power company and the bay people paid a big chunk of it.
    It's plenty to keep the basics going, plus I have a reliable old portable generator I've kept running for years if i need more. Mostly I want to keep the refrigerator cold, run the pump, keep a few lights on, and charge the laptops and cellphones.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Where is fuel cell tech, currently?

  • kinnath||

    OK. so what does 17 KWs of continuous output cost, fully installed?

  • kinnath||

    I paid out of pocket for my generator with no incentives. I suppose I should be happy to help may for your system as well.

  • Rasilio||

    Backup power generation in the event of an extended outage.

    Having lived through several week + power outages thanks to storms in my life having some level of installed Solar Power isn't so bad of an idea, certainly not enough to power the entire house, but enough to run the fridge and a couple of space heaters through the night and be able to cook and do laundry during the day is enough

  • ||

    About two years ago I did a back of the napkin calculation for both solar and wind. Based upon the assumptions I could find on the intertoobz, amount of power expected, how close you can put windmills, sunny days, windy days...

    What I came up with was to replace fossil fuels you would require a wind farm the size of South Carolina or a solar array the size of North Dakota. Granted it was a rough, rough estimate, but it provides scope.

    I'm certain there would be NO ecological ramifications of building either facility.

    It's NOT there and it's not even close to being there. If CO2 is really an issue, build nuke plants or shut the fuck up,

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    No NUKES! No NUKES! It's not about CO2, it's about power (pun intended), money, and happy magical feelings.

  • T o n y||

    As you should well know by now, nuclear power would not and cannot exist except as a heavily government subsidized enterprise. Libertarians promoting nuclear over nonnuclear clean energy is just cultural bias bullshit. Liberals like solar, so it's bad. Even though nuclear wouldn't exist except for government subsidy, liberals don't like it, so it's good. Pathetic.

    And it's strange to suddenly be concerned about ecological ramifications when you're talking wind and solar, since you obviously don't think there are any for carbon-based energy. Or you don't recognize that the ramifications are by far worse than anything solar or wind could ever do, since they wouldn't change the chemical composition of the atmosphere we have to live in.

  • ||

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    That's right Tony, we don't like solar because of...culture.

    God you are a mendacious fuck.

  • ||

    x2

  • ||

    Yes, dipshit. Covering a landmass the size of ND is going to have less environmental impact than burning natural gas.

    You are a complete fucking idiot.

  • H. Protagonist||

    My system goes in on March 4. The only reason I'm doing it is because I live in Los Angeles, and the douchebags that run the power company (DWP), the city, and the state will keep forcing this renewable crap on me for the foreseeable future. Already, we're looking at 6+% rate hikes each of the next two years.

    So I'm getting mine while I can. Federal tax credit, DWP subsidy, and suddenly I'm insulated from the idiocy. Payback period was about 8 years before the rate hikes are factored in.

    If you can't beat them, take their money and hasten the demise.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You piece of shit. You're just like Ron Paul, using those roads.

  • Professional Target||

    I'd love to see the ROI time before the incentives.

  • H. Protagonist||

    Around 16 years. So, yeah.

  • Professional Target||

    Around 16 years. So, yeah.

    Price of electricity around here is considerably cheaper, but the incentives aren't as good as yours either. My ROI would have run about 20 years without the bribes they gave, though I haven't figured in the last two rate hikes.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I worked for Al Gore's Climate Reality Project (don't hate me, I just fixed his computers). Let me tell you, there is very little to do with Reality in any of their minds.

    I was once part of a discussion on alternative energy sources to replace teh eeevil coal. I started talking about thorium reactors and how safe and reliable they are. I told them how many of the power plants we have in place today could be retrofitted to produce thorium power. The moment someone realized that a thorium reaction was nuclear in basis, you'd have thought I just called their mothers pig fucking whores. No joke. I tried to calm them down by showing them data on how it is impossible for a thorium reaction to melt down, data on how much safer thorium fuel and thorium waste is compared to uranium. Nope, didn't care. I said the N word and that was the end of that discussion. All they wanted to talk about was how we could promote solar and wind, two of the least efficient and reliable energy sources we have.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    All they want to talk about are ways to reduce the ability people have to consume.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Very true. Meanwhile, the CEO and the COO of that org both commute from Denver to DC every goddam week. They sent an "expedition" to Antarctica that consisted of 3 scientists and 150 or so celebrities and rich folk. This expedition was a fund raiser that took place on a ship that produced more pollution in the 2 weeks they were on it than everyone on this message board will produce this year.

    But it's OK, they bought carbon credits.

  • Aresen||

    Don't ever discuss nuclear energy with enviromaniacs. They won't listen. They will scream. Nuclear is the rape word of environmental politics.

    This includes thermonuclear, even though that is a forever distant possibility.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way. I foolishly and naively thought that they were ACTUALLY looking for non-polluting, efficient, sustainable energy sources.

    I'm sure if cold fusion were to become a reality, they'd say that we can't use it because it uses water and we have a limited supply of water.

  • Aresen||

    No. Because a fusion plant could turn into a hydrogen bomb.

    Or something like that.

    ----

    TBS, ever since Fukushima, I have started to have real doubts about nuclear power, since every plant design I've ever heard of depends on active measures to shut it down in an emergency. I'd be a little more sanguine about nuclear if I could see a design where, if everything fails, the reactor core goes inactive. (In the jargon of the 1960's, it is Fail-safe.)

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Look up Thorium Fission reactions. They're building reactor using Thorium instead of Uranium for that exact reason. A thorium reaction requires a bit of outside power input to maintain the reaction. If everything fails, it just stops reacting. Hence why it is impossible for it to accidentally melt down.

  • Ron Bailey||

    its: My take on thorium reactors:

    Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) have a lot to recommend them with regard to safety. Fueled by a molten mixture of thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts of lithium and beryllium at atmospheric pressure, LFTRs cannot melt down (strictly speaking the fuel is already melted).

    Because LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure, they are less likely than conventional pressurized reactors to spew radioactive elements if an accident occurs. In addition, an increase in operating temperature slows down the nuclear chain reaction, inherently stabilizing the reactor. And LFTRs are designed with a salt plug at the bottom that melts if reactor temperatures somehow do rise too high, draining reactor fluid into a containment vessel where it essentially freezes.

    It is estimated that 83 percent of LFTR waste products are safe within 10 years, while the remainder needs to be stored for 300 years. Another advantage is that LFTRs can use plutonium and nuclear waste as fuel, transmuting them into much less radioactive and harmful elements, thus eliminating the need for waste storage lasting up to 10,000 years.

  • Rasilio||

    I don't know why this is an issue.

    First off We have had 2 significant nuclear accidents in the history of Nuclear power, Cherynoble and Fukushima. The first Nuclear reactors went online in the 1950's so that is ~1 every 30 years.

    Assume that we continue at that rate and that on average each accident renders an area 50 miles in radius unusable for a period of 500 years and kills on average 2000 people both in the immediate aftermath and over the subsequent 20 years a result of radiation induced diseases.

    That means that 500 years from now we would have reached a stable state where there are ~15 active exclusion zones on the planet at any one time equaling a total of just shy of 24,000 Square miles irradiated and unusable. Basically an area the size of West Virginia spread around the globe.

    Your annual death toll from the entire Nuclear Industry would be on the order of 100.

    In otherwords Solar and Wind Power would both be significantly more ecologically damaging, especially when one considers the side effects of mining the rare earth metals required for either to work.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Yes, but don't tell a libtard that nuclear is still the safest, most efficient power source we currently have. Or the fact that a grand total of zero people have died in this country from nuclear accidents. IT'S EVIL!!!!

  • T o n y||

    I don't think liberals are as opposed to nuclear as you think they are--at least not anymore. Any reasonable liberal will prefer nuclear to fossil fuels any day.

    The only hypocrisy problem I see here is that libertarians are supposed to favor market-based approaches to things, and there is no such thing as a free market in nuclear energy. Nuclear energy wouldn't and couldn't exist in the market without governments heavily backing it up. So whatever problem the liberals in your head have, you seem to have a bigger one.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I was going to ask if you're retarded, but I already know the answer is yes.

    You seem to have missed the fact that I worked for AL FREAKING GORE! This was during the height of his popularity amongst greenies. Liberals irrationally hate and deride nuclear power just the same as they hate and deride guns irrationally. It stems from ignorance. Yeah, yeah, I know. Not ALL liberals hate those things, but the overwhelming majority DO.

  • grey||

    It's hard to understand what a liberal is for or against based on what they say. Obama says he is for reducing spending, but then proposes more spending. Obama says he is against imperialism, and yet continues policies of imperialism. Obama says he is for a free market, and yet piles on regulation. Obama says he is for transparency: Benghazi, Fast and Furious, etc. I think saying 'liberals' are for nuclear energy (whatever 'for' means) is no different than Obama being 'for' something.

  • Rasilio||

    Oh I should also note, having a design where "If everything fails" the reaction is shut down is immediate is easy and I suspect that all newer reactors are based on this.

    You basically have the control rods suspended above the core and held in place by electromagnets, if the electricity fails the fall into the core, reaction stops.

    The problem is there is still a HUGE amount of heat to be dissapated and that takes time and operational pumps.

    Remember, one of the the biggest problems for Fukushima was not the reactors but keeping the spent fuel ponds cool.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Which is insane, as their precious solar power is, in fact, based on nuclear fusion. Nothing less and nothing more.

    We'll crack the nut eventually, then it'll probably be banned as too liberating or something.

  • Professional Target||

    I run a near-future RPG in which the secret to controlled fusion turned out to involve (among other things) keeping it small. Output is proportional to diameter, not volume. One about the size of a walnut is enough to power one wheel of a car.

    One woman who played with our group objected to the idea these thing could last virtually forever. She thought being that independent of a "normalizing" supply chain was inherently immoral. Would not drop it. Could not forget it. She ended up leaving the group over it.

  • Aresen||

    I run a near-future RPG in which the secret to controlled fusion turned out to involve (among other things) keeping it small.

    Small T-nukes is an idea that I have played with a bit.

    The economic consequences would be world-changing:

    1) The entire oil industry would be wiped out. There would be a conversion time, but the industry would be doomed.
    2) Every electric utility would also be wiped out. Goodbye PG&E, ConEd.
    3) As a result of 1), the plastics industry, which gets much of its feedstock as a byproduct of fuel production, would see the cost of its raw materials rise.
    4) As a result of 2), the price of copper would plummet.
    5) Every car on the road would have to be replaced. This would be a huge temporary boost to the auto industry. OTOH, New cars would probably be much lighter and have fewer moving parts, so they would last longer.
    6) As a result of conversion to fusion-electric vehicles, the current means of financing roadways would no longer be viable.
    7) Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, ice storms and earthquakes would no longer mean that large number of people would be without power for long periods of time.
    8) Hydro-electric dams, the favorite megaproject of governments, would no longer be viable.

    There would be a long chain-reaction of consequences flowing from the obvious ones above. In the phrase James Burke, it would truly be "The Day the Universe Changed."

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Ironically, Obama backed nuclear projects in Georgia.

    I know, in Wingnuttopia this cannot be true.

  • Almanian!||

    Solar's only more expensive the first year. Why didn't he back that in Georgia?

    /shriek

  • GILMORE||

    is this like pointing out that obama was like, really antiwar at one point?

    (conveniently ignoring his actual policies)

    yeah, teh obama likes nuclear

    meanwhile he mulls 'permitting' the XL Pipeline... as though there is any valid case against it

  • SIV||

    Wait,a stupid bitch I keep meaning to "defriend" one of my fb friends posts some meme poster with Groundhog Day-regularity that Germany derives all of its electricity from wind and solar and at lower rates than we pay in the US. You're not telling me she is spreading misinformation are you?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Germans get their power from enslaved Jews and Gypsies who live in giant underground chambers, turning turbines by brute force.

  • GILMORE||

    hey! its *sustainable*! plus those caves trap all the greenhouse gypsy farts.

  • grey||

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/i.....olicy.html

    Found the above at a pro-nuclear org site. Note the long list of approved susidies. If nuclear energy is competitive, why is it not competing better without subsidy? Something doesn't smell right in the land of market based capitalism. I'm not an anit-nuke person, so I don't have that axe to grind.

    Perhaps the energy market is so distorted with massive government regulation and government subisidies everywhere (ethanol, solar, wind, etc.) that nobody could figure out what the energy market would look like free of one subsidy or another without getting rid of all subsidy and reducing regulatory oversight to something less than the near central planning we have.

  • Biogas Plant in Bangalore||

    It is very informative and very helpful on my research regarding renewable energy techniques. Thanks for sharing this post.
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