Tag: policy

The President’s Climate Change Executive Order: Wrong Pretense

The President announced on Tuesday, March 28th at the Environmental Protection Agency his new Executive Order based on protecting 75,000 US coal jobs by threatening over 3 million US clean energy jobs.

Some context:

According to MorningConsult

The order directs officials to review the Environmental Protection Agency regulations on new and existing power plants, withdraw the Obama administration’s “social cost of carbon,” which puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions, end a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land, review regulations on methane emissions from natural gas systems, end a guidance for agencies to consider climate change, and end Bureau of Land Management restrictions on hydraulic fracturing.

The Trump administration has not yet released the text of the order  which is based solely on saving coal and other fossil jobs, but a senior White House official shared details with reporters in a call on March 27th.

Listen Up: Solar Power in the Sunshine State

When I first got into solar, Florida seemed to be a natural market. After all, it’s the Sunshine State. In spite of the sun, there is one big problem that was holding back the market: the state of Florida prohibits residents from purchasing electricity from a source other than a utility. Unlike all other sunny states in the U.S., third party solar companies such as SolarCity, SunRun and Vivint are prohibited from providing solar leases and PPAs to homeowners. This utility-biased state policy has made it difficult for homeowners to finance their rooftop solar systems.

Fortunately, affordable solar loans are now available in Florida. These low interest and easy qualification loans help homeowners get to positive cash flow (electricity savings > financing costs). As a result, the rooftop solar industry in Florida is finally growing, in spite of the utilities’ anti-competitive policies.

My guest this week is Justin Hoysradt, CEO of Vinyasun, one of the leading residential solar installers in Florida. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Justin talks about the opportunities for rooftop solar in Florida, as well as some of their unique requirements — such as mounting systems and panels that can resist hurricane-force winds.

Spain Approves ‘Sun Tax,’ Discriminates Against Solar PV

Until recently, Spain had a very general self-consumption policy framework that applied to both grid-connected and off-grid systems. This month though, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a new self-consumption law that has set the country’s solar advocates up in arms with the government. 

The main problem with the new law, say solar advocates, is that it taxes self-consumption PV installations even for the electricity they produce for their own use and don’t feed into the grid. Spain’s PV sector calls the new law a ‘sun tax.’ 

According to Spain’s Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), the new law requires self-consumption PV system owners to pay the same grid fees that all electricity consumers in Spain pay, plus a so-called ‘sun tax’. Specifically, said UNEF, a self-consumption PV owner “will pay a ‘sun tax’ for the whole power [capacity] installed (the power that you contracted to your electricity company, plus the power from your PV installation) and also another [second] ‘sun tax’ for the electricity that you generate and self-consume from your own PV installation (this applies to installations larger than 10 kW).” 

The 800 Ways Taxpayer Money Supports Fossil Fuel Industries

As world leaders converge on New York for a United Nations gathering that’s expected to have a strong emphasis on climate change, the OECD is pointing out 800 ways rich industrial nations support fossil fuels with taxpayer money, along with a handful of countries that are catching up quickly.

The measures were worth $167 billion last year for the oil, natural gas and coal industries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based institution that advises 34 industrial nations. While that number has fallen from almost $200 billion in 2012, it easily exceeds the value of subsidies for renewables such as wind and solar.

The findings released Monday are designed to stimulate debate on what constitutes fair support for energy technologies. World leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are attempting to ratchet up ambitions for a global deal reducing greenhouse gas pollution. The UN-organized negotiations are expected to yield an international agreement in Paris in December. The OECD report suggests policy makers burrow into their own tax and spending measures for a solution.

“We’re totally schizophrenic,” Angel Gurria, the OECD’s secretary-general, said at a press conference in Paris on Monday. “We’re trying to reduce emissions, and we subsidize the consumption of fossil fuels. These policies are not obsolete, they’re dangerous legacies of a bygone era when pollution was viewed as a tolerable side effect of economic growth. They should be erased from the books.”

The report covered OECD member nations plus six developing economies outside the group — Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. It expands on a 2013 assessment and on the work of the International Energy Agency, which put the cost of fossil fuel subsidies at $548 billion in 2013, down 25 percent from the year before.

Biggest Subsidizers

The IEA report includes countries from the Middle East and Africa such as Qatar, Iran and Nigeria that top other rankings of big subsidizers. It looked at how consumer prices vary from market prices, while the OECD looked specifically at measures in national budgets that support fossil fuels.

“If other developing countries were included, then the total would be much higher,” said Angus McCrone, senior analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London. “The reassuring point from the OECD report is that although it found attempts to reduce fossil-fuel subsidies running into inertia, it also concluded that support is now on a downward trend.”

Renewable energy subsidies rose 15 percent to $121 billion in 2013 and may rise to $230 billion by 2030, according to an IEA report released last year.

The measures counted by the OECD covered some of the most obscure pieces of national tax codes — including direct controls on gasoline prices, depreciation allowances for oil drillers, breaks for refiners, credits for infrastructure like pipelines and stimulus for technology to clean up coal emissions.

‘People Are Outraged’

“People are outraged when they find out that their tax dollars are being used to prop up the richest industry on the planet,” said Jamie Henn, strategy director at 350.org, the campaign group founded by environmentalist Bill McKibben to urge investors to divest from high-polluting industries. “Funding fossil fuels is like buying up typewriters at the dawn of the computer age.”

Oil and oil products reaped 82 percent of the support, according to the OECD, with coal collecting 8 percent and gas 10 percent. A plunge in crude oil prices reduced some of the cost of subsidies.

More important were measures taken in India, China, Mexico and Indonesia, as well as most industrial nations, to reduce handouts to forms of energy that produce significant amounts of pollution. India saved 200 billion rupees ($3 billion) from 2012 to 2014 by slashing subsidies for diesel. Indonesia reduced consumer aid for electricity and motor fuels that ate up a fifth of its spending as recently as 2011. In the U.S., Obama has proposed $4 billion a year of savings from reduced fossil-fuel support.

“We’re certainly not saying that all the measures are bad,” since some are targeted to help poor people afford fuel they need, Jehan Sauvage, the lead author of the OECD report, said in an interview. “The key message is to ask if this is the best use of public money. Are these measures the best way to support the goals we have?”

©2015 Bloomberg News

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US Clean Power Plan Could Include Carbon Trading

Some businesses that back President Barack Obama’s plan to curb greenhouse gases are making a late lobbying push to add an element similar to a cap-and-trade program.

With the administration set this week or next to unveil its final rules to cut emissions from coal and natural gas plants, groups for companies such as Johnson Controls Inc., Alstom SA and AES Corp. have pressed officials to include a carbon market so that costs don’t surge.

Those programs — a slimmed-down version of a plan Congress debated and failed to pass early in Obama’s tenure — would apply to states that balk at putting rules in place.

Listen Up: Vampires Sucking Power from your House

Here’s a nightmare for you: at night, when you’re asleep and you think things are quiet, there are vampires sucking power out of your house and increasing your electric bill. The fact of the matter is that every plugged in electrical device in your home uses a small amount of standby power — even if you think these devices are off.

Hillary Clinton Outlines Renewable Energy Proposals; Will Further Obama Climate Goals

Hillary Clinton on Sunday set two “bold national goals” to combat climate change, promising that if she’s elected president, she would set the United States on a path toward producing enough clean renewable to power every home in America within a decade.

She would also initiate a process that would bring the total number of solar panels installed nationwide to more than half a billion before the end of her first term, her campaign said in a fact sheet released Sunday as it also posted a video in which Clinton lays out her ambitions.

With 1.6 GW of Wind Capacity Installed in Q2, American Wind Power Continues To Ramp Up In 2015

With 1,661 megawatts (MW) of newly installed wind turbines coming online during the second quarter of 2015 and more than 13,600 MW under construction, American wind power continues to increase its contribution to the U.S. electric power grid. The approval in May of Florida’s first purchase of wind energy, from a wind project in Oklahoma, added to the growing trend of Southeastern states purchasing wind power, as did the recent announcement of the first utility-scale wind farm to be built in North Carolina.

Building on that momentum, Congress also took a step in the right direction yesterday when the U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted 23-3 to extend the primary federal tax incentives for growing renewable energy as part of a larger tax policy extension bill.

Swiss Solar PV Company Plans To Build Solar Manufacturing Plant in Brazil

EcoSolifer AG, a Swiss solar company, is planning a panel plant in Brazil as the country seeks to develop a domestic supply chain for photovoltaic components.

The company is evaluating locations now for a facility that will assemble imported cells into about 80 MW worth of panels a year, said Bruno Zacharias, head of the company’s operations in Brazil.

Brazil has less than 35 MW of solar power capacity today, an insignificant part of its power supply. It’s seeking to promote wider use of the renewable energy and has introduced policies encouraging manufacturers to open factories. Zacharias said his plant will start producing cells within five years, something none of his competitors is doing.

Think the US Solar Industry Doesn’t Need the Solar ITC? Think Again.

“What I’m worried about is the end of the ITC,” said Tony Clifford, CEO of Standard Solar a solar developer based in Maryland during an interview at Intersolar North America. In preparation for a presentation that he was giving at the show, Clifford sought out studies other than those conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) about what will happen to solar in the U.S. should the ITC go away. He wanted to look beyond SEIA, the lobbying arm of the industry, because Clifford said he would expect SEIA to say the end of the ITC will be catastrophic for the solar industry, it is a lobbying organization after all. While he does believe the industry will be harmed he wanted to see what other independent studies were showing. 

How Solar Energy Zones and Easy Permitting Helped Create 3-cent Solar

Warren Buffet’s utility NV Energy has signed the lowest price contract for solar ever, at just US $0.0384 for First Solar’s 100-MW Playa Solar project, beating even its own record low price of $0.046 cents for SunPower’s 100-MW project in Boulder City, Nevada.

Both solar projects benefit from new streamlined permitting set up through the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Western Solar Plan, which designated 19 Solar Energy Zones (SEZ). This auction covered six parcels across 3,083 acres in Nevada. The previous case-by-case way to permit solar on BLM land was taking at least two years; and even longer if anything to tripped up the process. 

US DOC Enforces New Tariffs on Chinese Solar Manufacturers

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has ruled it will impose new punitive tariffs against Chinese solar product manufacturers, with antidumping duties of up to 260 percent and countervailing duties as high as 23 percent. The ruling represents the DOC’s latest efforts to control the dumping of low-cost solar products into the U.S. market by Chinese manufacturers.