Clean power for all (Offer not available in some areas)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A great article from Erik Curren from Energy Bulletin. Here is an excerpt:

In this state, you’ll get coal. And you’ll like it too.

Some parts of the United States offer excellent incentives and support to help level the playing field with grid power and make renewables affordable. And this public policy makes all the difference.

California may be #1 in solar, but un-sunny New Jersey is #2. And that’s not because you need to slather on SPF 60 if you’re visiting Newark or Teaneck.

It’s because the Garden State supports solar power through excellent public policy — a combination of a robust renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and the ability for renewable energy companies to enter into power purchase agreements with their customers, allowing a customer to use solar power without having to invest tens of thousands of dollars upfront in solar panels.

Both policies are key to cutting costs for renewables and getting close to the holy grail of “grid parity,” where clean energy from an alternative source costs about as much as dirty power from the electric company.

But with the exception of California, Colorado and a handful of traditionally liberal states in the Northwest and Northeast that have enacted serious policies to support renewable power, the rest of America remains a clean energy backwater. As California solar developer Al Rosen writes in Renewable Energy World,

There’s no solar gold rush or windfall profit. Most solar developers and their projects are struggling. The failure rate is extraordinarily high. Financing and investment is hard to come by. There are few viable programs and they all have small capacity and difficult requirements and limitations. Interconnection processes are highly complex, costly, uncertain, and time consuming. Land use entitlements, environmental approvals, zoning, planning, building and safety issues all add additional barriers to solar development.

Such barriers, which add extra cost to solar power as they do to all renewables, are the reason why the United States, still the world’s largest economy, is lagging behind such nations as Italy, the U.K. and even Indonesia in the amount of electricity we get from renewables.

And even though California is America’s renewable energy leader, the Golden State is still no great shakes in Rosen’s book. “Germany, with the same sunshine as Anchorage, Alaska, installed far more solar in the fourth quarter of 2012 than California has installed in total.”

Again, don’t blame the sun or the wind. America is falling behind on renewables because of politics.

Read the full article here.