Renewable Energy and Feed-In Tariffs Promoting Renewables
The energy transition is well underway. At least we thought it was before the mid-term elections. Will those that the fossil fuel industries have in their back pockets be disinclined to vote for resounding incentives for solar and wind ? Here in Massachusetts, solar and wind have been in some ways encouraged by the legislature, assuming their backers have the funds to implement them. Fifth in the nation in the amount of energy we get from solar and that's without the big utility scale arrays that have been deployed in the deserts of California.
They say you can't win a war with bureaucracy, but will the various legislatures step up and provide more than just the 30 percent tax rebate on solar construction that is due to expire in about a year? Government, that could live up to its name, could do better than this and provide more than just tax breaks and (in real life, in real time) funnel money towards the construction of renewable energy systems.
There was never any grand bargain. The fossil fuel giants usurped the heights of the economy, and anything challenging this would have to come from without. Groupings of capital that were not tied to the oil money existed and because there was demand- the solar companies did develop.
It is looking like solar is here to stay. and that news could not come too soon, for the planet's sake. Concatenations of capital, backed by some environmental 'citizens' groups, are making the expansion of solar energy provision a reality. And not just in the United States, but all over the world---- especially in the 'so-called' developing world, where renewables have largely leapfrogged traditional fossil fuel powered energy sources, and where distributed solar is overtaking coal and natural gas. (It's a hard sell in the OECD states , especially the US where the fossil fuel companies are headquartered and where there is a seemingly insatiable appetite for oil.)
Like they say, it's not a zero sum game-- in fact it's fiendishly complex. In broad initiatives it's good to move towards solar and wind, which get their power from renewable sources and are much cleaner than coal, natural gas, or even nuclear. How to change the country's energy base is a significantly complex challenge. The large scale solar arrays that are being built are beginning to replace coal plants in some areas-- in developing countries, it is sometimes only distributed solar in place for power, without having to go through the dirty energy sources first.
This transition of energy sources, while it needs to be strong enough to provide enough power, is absolutely necessary to stave off the disaster of global warming.
California is on track to have one million homes with their own solar power systems, feeding energy back into the grid, without depending on fossil fuels. They also have several large solar arrays out there, which have taken at least one coal-fired plant off-line. The jobs installing the solar panels are arguably more 'humanizing' jobs than working in the depths of a coal mine.
Solar energy incentives have been present in state law for more than several years. If we could move towards a “standard offer” practice of feed-in tariffs, it would force the utilities to adapt, pushing towards the benefit of more clean utilities. Feed-in tariffs, which are long-term contracts for energy usage, and give grid access and payment for the energy (renewable) produced, are one good way of encouraging the alternative energy development so necessary for the health of the planet. Feed-in tariffs are a form of long-term energy contract that the government can enact, where people that are producing their own energy (and feeding into the grid) receive an above retail price for the energy that they provide.
The benefits of a feed-in tariff system are many. In Virginia, a feed-in tariff system has been in place since 2013, providing payment of about 50 percent above retail energy rates for electricity fed back into the grid (from renewable sources). This, by taking the monopoly power on energy production out of the hands of the “fossilized” utility companies, has encouraged the deployment of renewable energy systems there and has sped up transition to renewable sources.
Here in Massachusetts, there is no coordinated effort to enact feed-in tariffs- though groups on the Cape have expressed a keen interest in it. Net metering standards (the deal of one-for-one exchange of energy between utility and end user) could be changed to a “standard offer” feed-in tariff arrangement, thus boosting the construction of individual solar energy systems. Large scale solar arrays could be deployed as the funds develop for them.
Moving the energy economy towards renewables is a big task, but one that is absolutely necessary due to the threat of global warming. Projections show many coastal cities in the US underwater by the second half of this century if measures are not taken to halt CO2 emissions.
With policy initiatives like feed-in tariffs in place, moving towards the goal of our energy provision being carbon neutral becomes less of a pipe dream, and more of a reality.