Posted 11 months ago on June 13, 2012, 10:52 a.m. EST by DoubleVoice
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The 1% that grows rich off of dirty coal is slowly losing its hold over Germany...
"If you follow the critics about such matters, you've probably heard that Germany's long-term investment in solar power has failed. There are, of course, some corporations that would like that to be true. But it isn't. Far from it. In May, the nation's distributed solar installations—more than a million of them, a large proportion on residential rooftops—generated 10 percent of Germany's electricity for the month. On May 25-26, solar generated half Germany's midday electricity production, pumping out 22 gigawatts of electricity.
Before someone jumps on me for concluding that every month, rain or shine, 10 percent of the total electricity can be generated in Germany with its existing solar installations, or that 22 solar gigawatts can be generated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that's not what I'm saying. May happened to be an especially sunny month. Night obviously puts a crimp on solar generation. That nation actually generates about 4 percent of its annual electricity from solar sources.
But what can be concluded is that government policy tied to a reasonable subsidy can make a diverse basket of renewable energy sources a practical means of weaning nations off fossil fuels and, the Germans propose, off nuclear energy as well. Generating power from solar installations in the day and from wind turbines at night, plus using biomass, geothermal and other renewables, makes for a sustainable system. Germany is already generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewables—solar, water and wind—the greatest fraction from the latter. A dozen years ago, the total was just 6.3 percent. Where's the failure?
Meanwhile, because distributed solar is now providing a large fraction of Germany's power in the peak hours when it is most needed, the wholesale price of electricity has fallen. That worries fossil-fuel generators. The bulk of their profit margin comes in those peak hours. Deutsche Bank solar analyst Vishal Shah said in a report in February that solar installations were cutting peak electricity prices by up to 40 per cent. Thus, the pressure from utilities on the government to cut back the feed-in-tariff is enormous.
At the federal level in the United States, the closest thing we have to a feed in tariff is the production tax credit. That provides a 2.1-cent/kilowatt-hour subsidy for the first 10 years of a renewable generator's production whether it's from solar, geothermal or wind sources. The PTC's greatest impact has been on wind generators. The credit has helped to reduce significantly the cost of generating electricity by wind turbines over the past two decades and spurred developers to install 48,611 megawatts of wind generating capacity. That's about 5 percent of the total generation capacity from all sources and growing rapidly. Over the past five years, 35 percent of total new U.S. generating capacity has come from wind.
But the production tax credit expires December 31. Thanks to partisan gridlock in Congress, there is about zero and a half chance it will be renewed before then. Even those Republicans who support the growing U.S. wind industry, now at more than 470 manufacturing facilities nationwide, will not do anything to give Democrats any legislative success before November. Even GOP bad boy Karl Rove thinks letting the PTC expire is a bad idea. Since a typical wind project takes about 18 months to complete, the expiration deadline is pushing wind farm investors to withdraw from the market now."