Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First the Dutch Pull the Plug on Wind Subsidies, Now Germany Throws in Towel on Solar Subsidies

I recently posted about how the Netherlands, the nation known for its iconic windmills, decided to throw in the towel on offshore wind power, as Dutch officials determined the country can no longer afford large scale subsidies for expensive wind turbines that cannot produce electricity at economically competitive prices.

Now there's news that Germany, the country that once prided itself on being the “photovoltaic world champion” is coming to the same conclusion about subsidizing solar energy.  The German government is now planning to cut its generous government subsidies for solar energy (more than $130 billion so far) sooner than planned, and to completely phase out public (i.e. "taxpayer") support over the next five years.  

A news report from Copenhagen explains what happened: 

"One of the world’s biggest green-energy public-policy experiments is coming to a bitter end in Germany, with important lessons for policymakers elsewhere.

What went wrong? 

Unfortunately, Germany – like most of the world – is not as sunny as the Sahara. And, while sunlight is free, panels and installation are not. Solar power is at least four times more costly than energy produced by fossil fuels. It also has the distinct disadvantage of not working at night, when much electricity is consumed."

MP: To paraphrase Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, "Solar (wind) energy is produced by mixing sunshine (wind) with our tax dollars."  And the Germans, like the Dutch, are finding out that you eventually run out of other people's money (tax dollars) to fund alternative energy sources that are not justified by science or economics.  As Margaret Thatcher taught us, that's always the problem with socialism - running out of other people's money.....

29 Comments:

At 2/21/2012 3:12 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here."
~Barack Obama 2012 SOTU

Our idiot President may end up winning this battle by default.

 
At 2/21/2012 3:26 PM, Blogger NC said...

Not enough energy density in wind or solar sources for energy conversion and transmission to a grid.

Space based solar maybe in the future, but not here on earth... no matter how good it makes the left feel.

Obama playing engineer is hilarious and expensive.

 
At 2/21/2012 3:26 PM, Blogger NC said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/21/2012 4:14 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

A few months ago, the property manager of my apartment complex approached us with a proposal: build solar panels on the building. In order to help finance the cost, our rents would all increase by about $150 per month (a jump of about 18%), but our energy bills would be significantly reduced (it was estimated). We overwhelmingly rejected the idea. When discussing the matter with some of my neighbors, we had all reached the same conclusion: the increase in rent was more than what we were currently paying in electricity.

 
At 2/21/2012 5:04 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon: "A few months ago, the property manager of my apartment complex approached us with a proposal: build solar panels on the building. "

If the idea was such a good one, the property owner (through the manager) wouldn't have offered tenants a share in the "benefits".

As it was, it sounds like you were offered a chance to share in the costs.

 
At 2/21/2012 5:49 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Jon Murphy,

That's quite funny! I mean, I can see how that idea might have wings down here in Florida but you live in New Hampshire!!! I did a lot of skiing in New Hampshire over the years and I don't remember the sun being particularly strong during your long winters.

Sounds an awful lot like your landlord was offered a subsidy and decided to have you guys pay the rest of the cost of installation.

Oh, and even in Florida the solar panels don't work that well. after cloudy days some of my solar landscaping lights are so weak that they may as well not be there at all. I'm switching them to regular electric lights.

 
At 2/21/2012 5:51 PM, Blogger rjs said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Scotland
The Scottish Government has a target of generating 31% of Scotland's electricity from renewable energy by 2011, and 100% by 2020

Annual wind power production is currently equal to about 19–20% of electricity consumed in Denmark. The proportion of this that is actually consumed in Denmark has been disputed, with claims of up to 40% of wind power being exported

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Denmark

 
At 2/21/2012 6:01 PM, Blogger MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

And in our country, Rasmussen's recent poll shows that 29% of Americans favor bribing rich Americans to induce them into buying an electric car by offering them a $10,000 taxpayer subsidy to do so. The political "right" is spinning this that it's an unpopular policy because "only" 29% approve of it.

I take a different view. That almost one third of Americans think bribing rich people to buy an electric car is an acceptable policy shows how effective the global warming industry has been with its fear mongering campaign.
Do these apparently environment loving Americans who favor the policy know that much of our electricity is generated from dirty evil coal fired power plants?

Or, is almost one third of the country so uninformed and out of touch that they should not be allowed to vote?

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/environment_energy/29_favor_10_000_subsidies_for_electric_car_buyers

 
At 2/21/2012 7:08 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Methinks,

Over the year I've lived here, the complex has been doing things to become more green (new washers & dryers, updating appliances, new toilets, etc). Much of this complex was built in the 70's and did need some updating (that's not to say the buildings are run down, just that they were outdated). I think this was just the next step in their planning. I'm sure there are subsidies out there, but whether or not that directly affected their plans is something I do not know. I suspect it's more along the lines that the aforementioned updates are their duty as landlords whereas the solar panels would only be worth it if the residents wanted it.

 
At 2/21/2012 7:14 PM, Blogger Krishnan said...

Even as Europe is finding limits to spending, Obama rolls along - even more aggressively than he has so far ...

Obama's mission in life has been to strangle the US economy - because - "The US has been evil for so far, the US has to be punished" - Obama will spend us into obscurity - Greece will look like paradise if Obama continues to get his way -

I am afraid that many in the US refuse to see Obama for what he is and examine what he has done. We are indeed in for a lot of trouble and extinction as a successful economic system

Meltzer is right in that Capitalism is indeed the only system that has produced growth and improved people's lives - and THAT is the problem, as Obama sees it.

 
At 2/21/2012 7:14 PM, Blogger Krishnan said...

Even as Europe is finding limits to spending, Obama rolls along - even more aggressively than he has so far ...

Obama's mission in life has been to strangle the US economy - because - "The US has been evil for so far, the US has to be punished" - Obama will spend us into obscurity - Greece will look like paradise if Obama continues to get his way -

I am afraid that many in the US refuse to see Obama for what he is and examine what he has done. We are indeed in for a lot of trouble and extinction as a successful economic system

Meltzer is right in that Capitalism is indeed the only system that has produced growth and improved people's lives - and THAT is the problem, as Obama sees it.

 
At 2/21/2012 7:52 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"As it was, it sounds like you were offered a chance to share in the costs"...

ron h I also wonder if the people who would 'share' the potential decrease in electric bills (ha! ha!) would share in the potential liability...

This last past thursday we experienced for a short time some serious winds, some these straight line gusts supposedly exceeded 70mph...

A couple of miles north of me a solar panel was whipped off a house and slammed into the windshield of a parked car edge on...

From the video on the news it looked like the panel had embedded itself 2 to 3 foot into the cab on the driver's side...

That could've been ugly...

 
At 2/21/2012 8:44 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon: "I think this was just the next step in their planning. I'm sure there are subsidies out there, but whether or not that directly affected their plans is something I do not know."

Jon, as an economist, you know that incentives matter. There are taxpayer subsidies involved with each of the upgrades/replacements you mentioned.

I don't mean to sound too cynical, but when taxpayers or tenants are willing to pay for part of a property owners maintenance costs, that's when it's most likely to happen.

 
At 2/21/2012 8:48 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

There are taxpayer subsidies involved with each of the upgrades/replacements you mentioned.

I don't mean to sound too cynical, but when taxpayers or tenants are willing to pay for part of a property owners maintenance costs, that's when it's most likely to happen.


As far as I know, this is nothing more than routine maintenance. I don't think there were any subsidies involved. Like I said, the building is from the 70's.

 
At 2/21/2012 9:23 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon,

I obviously can't know for sure, but you may want to consider something like this or this or this could be involved.

These programs come and go, but I wouldn't consider replacing something myself, without checking to see if there was a way to f** - I mean get assistance from - the taxpayers.

 
At 2/21/2012 9:24 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon,

Did you also get a new low flow showerhead?

 
At 2/21/2012 9:27 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Methinks: "Oh, and even in Florida the solar panels don't work that well. after cloudy days some of my solar landscaping lights are so weak that they may as well not be there at all. I'm switching them to regular electric lights."

I'm sorry, but I have to ask. Does your landscaping include pink flamingos? :)

I know it used to be mandatory in Florida.

 
At 2/21/2012 9:42 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Pink Flamingos and fake fiber optic fake palm trees on a bed of astro turf. Why? You don't think those are the height of class and style?

Are you trying to imply that the prevalence of macular degeneration in Florida makes yards that look like Mardi Gras floats and clown make-up beneath sparse hair permed into a Bozo 'fro seem more attractive than they would be in the sharp relief of a more youthful eye?

Funny you should mention shower heads. I just this morning hacked into the shower heads in my houwe and yanked out the flow thingy. I look forward to actually getting wet the next time I take a shower.

 
At 2/21/2012 9:44 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

"houwe" is, of course, "house". The consequences not being able to find my glasses before I sit down to the computer are getting more dire with each passing year.

 
At 2/22/2012 5:27 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Ron,

Thank you for the links. Taking a quick look through them, it appears the subsidies are for single-family homes and small apartment buildings like duplexes and townhouses. Of course, that does not mean there aren't subsidies for large complexes like the one I live in.

As for the shower head, they actually replaced mine with one that uses more water, not less (not that I'm complaining).

There is probably one other variable I should have mentioned: the landlord provides us tenants with water (both hot and cold), laundry machines, and the like. We do not pay those bills separately; it's all covered in rent. The only extra bills we have are electricity and heat (it's electric heating). I'm thinking part of their motivation for replacing these things is to lower their own costs. Since we all sign year-long leases, our rents cannot fluctuate with rising costs.

 
At 2/22/2012 7:38 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

I'm thinking part of their motivation for replacing these things is to lower their own costs. Since we all sign year-long leases, our rents cannot fluctuate with rising costs.

I can't say exactly because I'm not privy to their cost/benefit analysis, but replacing old washing machines and the like may or may not be a cost saving device.

Even if the building owners didn't lower their costs by replacing appliances they'd have to in order to stay competitive with other buildings. Or they could lower the rent, but it's probably more prudent to just update the building.

Clearly, the solar panels weren't a money saving scheme. If they were, then your rent wouldn't have to rise. I suspect the landlord pays for outdoor electric lighting and to heat the water he provides you at no incremental cost. Yet, it didn't seem to be worth switching just those things to solar.

And I still say "SOLAR? In New Hampshire?"

 
At 2/22/2012 1:50 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Methinks: "Pink Flamingos and fake fiber optic fake palm trees on a bed of astro turf. Why? You don't think those are the height of class and style?

Are you trying to imply that the prevalence of macular degeneration in Florida makes yards that look like Mardi Gras floats and clown make-up beneath sparse hair permed into a Bozo 'fro seem more attractive than they would be in the sharp relief of a more youthful eye?
"

Oh! Please Stop so I can catch my breath! I haven't laughed this hard in weeks.

"Funny you should mention shower heads. I just this morning hacked into the shower heads in my houwe and yanked out the flow thingy. I look forward to actually getting wet the next time I take a shower."

Good for you! Isn't it exciting to be an outlaw?

Now, where's that thread that has a discussion of circumventing regulations?

 
At 2/22/2012 2:05 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon: "As for the shower head, they actually replaced mine with one that uses more water, not less (not that I'm complaining)."

That's terrible! You should call DOE immediately to report that criminal act! :)

 
At 2/22/2012 2:09 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

ron-

as the old saying goes:

"when they outlaw good showers, then only outlaws won't smell like a goat."

 
At 2/22/2012 2:22 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

I love old blind people, Ron H! I am way middle-aged and those old girls never fail to card me when I buy booze at Publix. I thought they were kidding at first, but they are dead serious.

 
At 2/22/2012 2:23 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

morganovich: "as the old saying goes:

"when they outlaw good showers, then only outlaws won't smell like a goat.
"

Hmm. You're right. Hadn't thought about it before, but I guess calling someone an old goat is now referring to them as a law abiding citizen.

 
At 2/22/2012 2:28 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I love old blind people, Ron H! I am way middle-aged and those old girls never fail to card me when I buy booze at Publix. I thought they were kidding at first, but they are dead serious."

That's funny! I guess we can be thankful they work at Publix and not for TSA.

 
At 2/22/2012 8:13 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Our idiot President may end up winning this battle by default.

With such victories can the US afford any defeats?

 
At 2/22/2012 10:00 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I take a different view. That almost one third of Americans think bribing rich people to buy an electric car is an acceptable policy shows how effective the global warming industry has been with its fear mongering campaign"...

Well MaggotAtBroad&Wall that might indeed be the case but being a cynical old bastard I have tendency to see it as a massive failure of the education system to teach student to think skeptically...

 

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