Friday, May 18, 2018

Alexander Hamilton's solar panels

I think I finally have figured out why California is mandating solar panels on top of houses. (WSJ story here.)

As energy, environmental, or housing policy, it borders on the absurd, as pretty much everyone quickly figured out.

Just to recap, remember that most rooftop solar does not power the house underneath it. The energy goes out to the grid. Why not, you ask? Well, the rooftop energy comes at the wrong time, and we don't yet have economical storage, so you have to be connected to the grid anyway. Given that, the costs of switches to let the roof partially power the house at sometimes, power the grid at other times, is not worth the zero benefit. After all, electricity is electricity and your light bulb does not care where it came from.

So rooftops are just a place to put the electric utility's solar panels. Now let's consider, where is the best place to put solar panels that feed the grid?

Option A:


(OK, in reality the Mojave desert, or the vast stretches of wasteland along I-5 pockmarked with angry farmer billboards, but the camels are cute.)

Option B: The roof of a typical northern California house:
http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Dewitt/Dewitt.html

(OK, I'm having fun with this one, but you get the point. Actually a house off the grid is one place where rooftop solar does make a lot of sense, but you don't have to force people to buy them in that case.)

To belabor the point, people like to build houses near trees. Trees shading roofs are heavily protected in Palo Alto where I live, and you risk massive fines if you cut one down. House roofs don't always pitch to the southwest at the optimum angle.

A house is an expensive and flammable structure for a solar panel. You need to be a lot more careful putting it up there than out in the desert. In California especially, each installation needs a separate design, design review, permits, and so on. Code requirements are stringent. Each installation needs big switches, where the fire department can get at them (and a separate one for the battery). Each house needs a separate set of switches to connect to the grid. All of these fixed costs are spread way out on a commercial solar farm out in the desert.

And so on. We don't operate tiny coal burning generators in each house for the same good reasons.

So why is California doing it? Grumpy free marketers tend to bemoan nitwit liberalism, but economics teaches us to look for rational maximizing actors even in government.

So here is a suggestion. It's actually a brilliant move. Large-scale rooftop solar is only sustained by subsidies -- tax credits for installation and the requirement that homeowners can sell power to their fellow citizens (through the utility) at above-market rates. To put the matter mildly, not everybody thinks these subsidies are a good idea, and moreover you can't count on Washington to maintain subsidies for the 30 year lifespan of solar panels. You never know, someone like, say, Donald Trump might get elected president and start tearing apart energy subsidies.

So, once solar panels are on the rooftops of thousands of registered voters, you have a natural constituency that will vote and otherwise pressure the state, the administration, congress, and agencies to continue solar subsidies. 

The Alexander Hamilton story is that he wanted the US federal government to take on the state debts from the revolutionary war, in part to create a class of bondholders who would support the federal government's ability to raise taxes, to pay off that debt. Putting solar panels on houses, though ridiculously inefficient from an energy or environment point of view, achieves the same thing, in a nefarious sort of way.

Too bad they can't just give each of us a solar panel out in the desert, the way some charities show you "your" child in some third-world country. Once a year, you get a card "Happy holidays! I'm your solar panel, number 3457 in the Mojave desert. I've had a great year pumping out electricity! Here is your check for $357.52 in subsidies and power generation. Remember to vote on election day!"

45 comments:

  1. Brilliant. Totally agree. This sparked a thought regarding healthcare.

    In healthcare, there was/is a similar strategy related to moving towards single payer by trying to get as many employers to dump employees into healthcare exchanges. Once you get enough people out of employer based insurance you start to move into a government run single payer system by slowing regulating the insurers out of business. A similar natural consistency of people start demanding more and more healthcare benefits. It will be similar to Social Security/Medicare demands by voters.

    Even if a Swiss-style system might be better for the U.S., it behooves opponents of single payer to stick with employer based insurance, as there is too much risk since once the transition away from employer is made, there is no turning back.

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  2. What is the name for this disease... I was going to suggest "nitwit liberalism" but you already used this phrase. "Rational actors in California" is an oxymoron.

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  3. We all know why libs do anything. It's to get votes. Mandating solar panels on homes is the least crazy things California libs do to get votes.

    The question is, how will they balance this mandate with the "affordable" housing mandates to house the millions of Honduran "dreamers" they brought into California to win votes?

    But I guess when you have California's public school system, such contradictions aren't really important.

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  4. Let us not forget that the upkeep to the grid is extremely expensive, but not a burdensome cost when everyone chips in. When people install panels on their roofs, they are no longer contributing to the grid's upkeep, even as they are still very much dependent on it.

    I fear a horrible death spiral coming on.

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    1. Linking the "grid" with lots of small panels on individual home's roofs...most certainly...increases maintenance costs on the grid.

      It also increases overall maintenance costs for the individual home owner, since each of those panels will have to be cleaned and maintained at least on a yearly basis, plus additional cost to home insurance companies etc.

      But that's ok. The taxpayer in other states will cover those costs for the individual, most likley. I.e., Mexifornia being Mexifornia.

      However it would be very unlikely that installing panels on your roof would reduce one's burden of paying for the grid maintenance. The grid company will factor in the cost of maintenance in the price they pay for this dubious benefit they get from you. Overall, however, it's mostly peanuts and unlikely to affect grid maintenance. Costs are just shifted.

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  5. Frederic MenningerMay 18, 2018 at 1:53 PM

    Maybe we need the subsidies to ensure enough people invest in solar panels. More investments will lead to higher efficiency and lower prices/watt, which will some day make solar panels profitable without subsidies. Of course you could just pay for solar panels in the desert, but it makes people happy to see a solar panel on their roof. They want see their contribution to the environment every day and not just once a year on their "Happy Holidays!" card.

    PS: If you think California should not spend money on the happiness of people, remember somebody was very unhappy because the DMV does not have sufficient funds to operate properly ;)

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    1. Subsidizing solar does nothing to fix the death spiral of the grid. It only makes it worse!

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    2. How many decades has the "we need subsidies to make solar/wind/fart investment profitable, any day now!" argument been around?

      How many more decades till we get there?

      How many studies over the past 3 decades, which predict the impending competitive price level of solar/wind/farts by next year, are enough to say that it isn't going to happen?

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    3. Frederic MenningerMay 18, 2018 at 11:42 PM

      It is working, prices have been falling for the past decades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell#/media/File:Price_history_of_silicon_PV_cells_since_1977.svg

      Even if it takes 3 more decades, then it was 30 years of subsidies in exchange for less dependence of fossil energy, less potential Fukushimas, and cheap energy in the future (the sun does shine for free). To me that sounds like a great deal and worth a try.

      @ Ike Evans: I am not sure if I get your point, do you say there are additional hidden subsidies because solar panels cause damage to the grid? Do you have an estimate?

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    4. Frederic Menninger, no not really: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#/media/File:Projected_LCOE_in_the_U.S._by_2020_(as_of_2015).png

      It remains the most/one of the most expensive sources of energy. And this is already after 30 years of subsidies.

      And it is of extremely limited application and scalability; i.e. it only works in places with lots of sun. And can only provide a minuscule % of energy needed, since if you wanted to power a city the size of LA with solar alone, you would need to cover the whole of the Mojave in solar panels. Not exactly a good idea. (and you could never power a whole city on solar alone. You'd need baseline energy supply, which can only come from fossil fuel/nuclear/hydro)

      As for "less dependence of fossil fuel", I'm not sure why we would want less dependence on fossil fuel. I'm sure there are lots of reasons you can tell me, but there's also lots of reasons I can come up with why I don't care. That's a judgement call, and frankly I'll take nat. gas any day over anything else.

      Not saying solar doesn't have its applications, limited as they may be. But it is generally and mostly useless in most applications...and in most applications the government wants to mandate/subsidize its use.

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    5. Here's what it looks like in Australia, a VERY sunny country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#/media/File:LCOEs_of_energy_generators_in_Australia_AETA_2013_Update_Figure_8.png

      That's pretty awful.

      Meanwhile, nat gas prices between 2005-2017 went down by 60% (https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec9_13.pdf values here not adjusted for inflation).

      At the same time, all the renewable mandates from the Zero administration raised electricity prices by 30-40% on average during that same period. Doesn't sound like a great idea so far.

      And the overall price per kwh is actually not even that important. There is literally nothing else that can provide base load electricity supply other than fossil (or nuclear or hydro, basically something with a reservoir of energy readily available at any time). Not even peak load supply is doable with solar, because peak demand can be at times when the sun don't shine.

      So prices aren't all that important in the grand scheme. There are technical and physical limitations which dictate which power source needs to be used. The transient stuff like wind and solar is just fluff, mostly, and for 90% of places. Until storage technology advances enough, and is cost effective enough, it will remain so. And that's decades away.

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    6. Frederic MenningerMay 22, 2018 at 6:42 AM

      Thanks for the comments Anonymous I and II,
      I agree that currently Solar Panels can not compete with other sources, no question about it. But prices have dropped during 30 years of previous subsidies (sunk cost) from ca. 10$/Watt to 0.3$/Watt. So why does an inefficient system today have to be inefficient in the future? If the pace continues and prices are reduced by 50% every 6 years (that's only based on the past 30 years), prices will be number one in the first link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#/media/File:Projected_LCOE_in_the_U.S._by_2020_(as_of_2015).png) by 2030. That't not bad, is it?
      Do you have a calculation for the LA-Majova estimate? I see a current energy consumption for the LA county (http://ecdms.energy.ca.gov/elecbycounty.aspx) of 69614 GWh in 2016, which is about 8GW continous flow. If I take it to the extreme, solar panels can use the entire energy of the sun, which is about 1KW per sqaure meter (https://ag.tennessee.edu/solar/Pages/What%20Is%20Solar%20Energy/Sun's%20Energy.aspx), which leaves us with an area of 1.8 miles * 1.8 miles to power LA county. I see that current solar panels are not efficient enough, but even with 10% efficiency some day the area would be considerable small.
      As you say, the question whether we want to depend on fossil energy is a personal question, therefor I think we should not discuss it here (we could skype).
      I also see the concerns regarding energy storage from Anonymus 2, but prices for batteries (measured in USD/Wh) are falling rapidly (https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-ev-oil-crisis/img/ev-battery-cost.jpg). I trust all those Teslas and Smartphone companies that they invest heavily is battery research.
      Best,
      Frederic

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    7. Anonymous, above, rattled on about "base load". Understand that "base load" is a purely fictional meme invented by marketers of GigaWatt power stations (i.e. coal and nuclear).
      To keep the grid stable (i.e. delivering a more or less steady ac voltage) it is necessary to match the power fed into the grid to the power taken out of the grid. The inconveniently variable power output of PV and wind generators is no more of a problem than the inconveniently fixed power output of coal and nuclear sources. Nuclear is the worst. It takes several days to change its output. Coal fired plant at least can be run at 90% of peak and quickly turned up to 100% during the few minutes it takes for gas turbines to start up. A grid supplied solely by nuclear sources would require an uneconomically huge amount of rechargeable batteries. We will need a lot of grid connected batteries (and pumped hydro storage) when fossil fuel burning comes to an end. But many of the power consumers (e.g. battery powered vehicles) will be controllably variable to help match supply to demand.
      The transition is happening. We will see fossil fuel burning tapering off for a few decades. Naysayers are simply interfering with the process here while China gets on with it. When China dominates the industry and requires we pay them hefty profit we will have the naysayers to blame.
      --E5

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    8. Sorry, but this post is a joke, to start, the talk about switches is ridicules, those are circuit breakers not "switches" (your house has 15-20 or more of them, go check if you know where to look) and they are not costly, panels today are 22% efficient not 10%, any cost numbers presented in the comments is outdated if more than 1 year old.
      Unlike the author, I know a thing or two about solar.

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  6. I agree with this post.

    I would like to see John Cochran apply the same reasoning to the nation's ethanol fuel program.

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    1. You don't need me! You just did it. Yes, only a sop to Iowa primary voters. And we keep the price of ethanol artificially high with trade barriers (apparently Brazilian ethanol doesn't save the planet) just as we keep the price of solar panels artificially high with trade barriers.

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    2. Yes, but your megaphone is way bigger than mine.

      So, let's see a post on ethanol, now at 10% of "gasoline" sold in the US. Many say ethanol-fuel is energy-negative, after all is said and done.

      I agree, a powerful network of dependents has been built up around pink, subsidized, mandated and protected fuel ethanol, which actually extends deep into the rural economy, far beyond Iowa.

      Sadly, I conclude there is left-wing PC and right-wing PC, when it comes to state or federal subsidies of…well, everything, including energy and fuel.










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    3. I have a simple engineering question for solar panels. What is the ratio of energy created over a panel's lifetime to energy it took to make it. Since I don't see this published, I conclude its not very good (less than one!?). I do get comments from people that it doesn't matter what it is because its always getting better with technology. Sure, whatever. If I buy an electric motor, I can divide horsepower of the motor by watts of electricity input to get the motor efficiency. Where is this simple, common metric for solar panels. Or are we not supposed to use engineering logic when emotion gives us the answer?

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    4. There are so many innacuracies with this article. Let me start with putting panels in a desert. Glass semi polyamorphous solar panels work best between 70°- 95°F and above that suffer from power degradation up to 50% the hotter it gets. Amorphous silicon solar is rated for 115°F. Rooftops in 115°F deserts reach over 130°F. Alcator or mirrored solar is best for deserts. Not panels.

      Next lets speak about subsidies. For the homeowner, subsidies are only applied to the installation in the form of tax credits. In order to receive subsidies for power generation, the homeowner would need to generate 10 megawatts. The average house produces 2-4 kilowatts. Some companies get houses to sign up for solar installation so that they can achieve the 10 megawatt threshold. These subsidies are then paid for by rate payers in a scaled pay structure to account for high power demand times of the day. 7-10am and 4pm-7pm pay higher rates during these times and get an allotment of power at that tax. Any more than that gets taxed at a higher rate. The same pay scale holds true for the lower demand times with lower taxes.
      If anything, removing subsidies would probably remove the regressive tax and garner more votes. I have installed my own solar system which is tied to the grid, and although I get credit for power generation, I do not get credit for the applied tax to my consumption of power. So removing that subsidy tax would be fantastic!
      Elon Musk and other large solar installers benefit the most from these subsidies, and have the most to lose if they do lose these subsidies. The homeowners who pay Solar City for solar panel installation power from their rooftops pay about the same as for their monthly power bill due to the costs of the installations. Roofers would lose out if subsidies are removed, unless all those people hire them to remove the systems.

      Lastly, solar is medium volts low amps. The power lines going to your washing machine are high volts high amps. Those lines go through your house without anyone worrying that doing laundry for a weekend will burn down the house. Electricity is dangerous, but is no longer a mystery how to handle it by professionals.

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    5. There are so many innacuracies with this article. Let me start with putting panels in a desert. Glass semi polyamorphous solar panels work best between 70°- 95°F and above that suffer from power degradation up to 50% the hotter it gets. Amorphous silicon solar is rated for 115°F. Rooftops in 115°F deserts reach over 130°F. Alcator or mirrored solar is best for deserts. Not panels.

      Next lets speak about subsidies. For the homeowner, subsidies are only applied to the installation in the form of tax credits. In order to receive subsidies for power generation, the homeowner would need to generate 10 megawatts. The average house produces 2-4 kilowatts. Some companies get houses to sign up for solar installation so that they can achieve the 10 megawatt threshold. These subsidies are then paid for by rate payers in a scaled pay structure to account for high power demand times of the day. 7-10am and 4pm-7pm pay higher rates during these times and get an allotment of power at that tax. Any more than that gets taxed at a higher rate. The same pay scale holds true for the lower demand times with lower taxes.
      If anything, removing subsidies would probably remove the regressive tax and garner more votes. I have installed my own solar system which is tied to the grid, and although I get credit for power generation, I do not get credit for the applied tax to my consumption of power. So removing that subsidy tax would be fantastic!
      Elon Musk and other large solar installers benefit the most from these subsidies, and have the most to lose if they do lose these subsidies. The homeowners who pay Solar City for solar panel installation power from their rooftops pay about the same as for their monthly power bill due to the costs of the installations. Roofers would lose out if subsidies are removed, unless all those people hire them to remove the systems.

      Lastly, solar is medium volts low amps. The power lines going to your washing machine are high volts high amps. Those lines go through your house without anyone worrying that doing laundry for a weekend will burn down the house. Electricity is dangerous, but is no longer a mystery how to handle it by professionals.

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    6. Frederic MenningerMay 22, 2018 at 10:20 AM

      @Unknown: There are scientific papers out there, e.g. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2007.11.012 . If you don't have access, here the important line from the Conclusion: "Moreover, the energy pay back time (EPBT) has been evaluated. It is estimated to be shorter than the panel operation life even in the worst geographic conditions." And that was in 2007.

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    7. It does not take any fancy logic or knowledge to conclude that the notion that it takes more energy to make a solar panel than it generates in its lifetime is classic disinformation.

      To make a solar panel takes a lot of fancy equipment and people to keep it going. That costs money - salaries, recouping investment, making profit etc.. The cost of the energy used is a small part. Yet the factory's price for the panel is still less than what it would cost the end user to buy from fossil fuel burners the energy that it will generate over its lifetime.
      --E5

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    8. Yes to Benjamin, May18. A careful study of the ethanol production process reported that the energy content of the ethanol produced is less than the energy content of the petroleum burned in the process. This is only viable at all because the petroleum used is tarry residue that cannot be used for anything else.
      --E5

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  7. "Given that, the costs of switches to let the roof partially power the house at sometimes, power the grid at other times, is not worth the zero benefit." ?:I don't understand how the benefit of the switch is zero?

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    1. Because your lights don't need the specific power from your roof. Apparently the switch to make that happen cost money and don't increase the available power to your house. So you have a cost with no benefit.

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    2. Thanks. If I understand correctly then, the benefit of the switch in this context is < $0, not = $0.

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  8. Keep the pressure where is most needed. It's cool to be critical of the "Ethanol Program". You will likely be deemed smart and critical thinking -- if only a bit too "politically courageous" (in the "Yes, Prime Minister" sense). If you are critical of anything solar, not only will you be accused of being "evil", but also of being anti-science and even innumerate. Prof Cochrane's criticism of this particular program can not be dismissed based on at least two out of the three claims.

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  9. Humans do not have the smarts to make "something" out of "nothing" and power is no exception. Its going to take money and trade offs whether it be solar, coal, nuke or hamsters running in wheels. And how we decide the trade off (aka cost) will always be debatable. When all else fails, we'll just manipulate the data to justify our position. Cost per megawatt hour, injuries per megawatt hours, environmental impact from production to destruction, etc etc, etc. All have pro's and cons. The only difference is how much value we apply on "ifs", warm fuzzies and other gobledegook. Or we can sit and go into analysis paralysis and never get ANYTHING done. Look up the old joke defining a committee sometime.

    Yup, maybe in the Mojave solar IS sensible. Wonderful. Knock yourselves out. And if I just happen to have a natural gas well in my back yard, a coal seam, or develop a Muronium q32 space modulator in my garage that generates power, then let ME do my own thing. Maybe I want MY roof for something other than some big black heat magnet. And if I make a mess in the process, then prove it and throw my hide in jail....if I don't blow myself up or go broke in the process. But until such time, I want the freedom to decide my own fate on power and a few million other things. That means not paying directly or indirectly for something I get zero benefit out of. That's charity...in which case there are a few outfits better at that game than Uncle Sam in my humble opinion.

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    1. Actually the first time we used a horse (1hp) to pull enough coal for a 2hp coal fired motor, was the first time we made something out of nothing by using ingenuity. Fuel costs for the amount of work done has decreased steadily over the last century due to efficiencies in motor and circuit designs. What increases is the cost to refine that fuel for high capacity with longterm consistency. So it just boils down to who do you want to pay to do that for your power. Japan has towns where the residents get their power from a hydrogen generator in their front yard that uses lp gas to create hydrogen for an exchange layer to power your house. Pretty much the same system as we use lp gas (in a cave man way) to heat water and food and metal deflection for heaters, except they dont use FIRE as the catalyst.
      Also solar power is more efficient in partly light cloudy diffuse light around 75-95° F. The desert is too hot for solar panels. Rooftops are hotter than the air around them, but solar laminates made from CIGs or amorphous silicon work at higher temperatures and can work in partial shade so Palo Alto shade will still yeild good results. There is also wind power which we get at those peak demand times of the rush hours in the morning and late afternoons. The solar systems are perfect conduits for wind tie in as well.
      I use a combination of battery back up solar generators and the grid tie in and pay only that subsidy tax for the power I consume. I get no credits on the taxes for the power I get credit for producing. So I pay for water sewer and taxes for a subsidy. Solar roof tops are a great idea whether mandated or not. It is an even better idea if its not mandates by subsidies in my opinion.

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  10. If everyone painted their roof perfect white we might cool down a bit, possibly solve the problem. Light reflection is close to 8o%, then you have losses in clouds. Only works during the day.

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  11. When there is an ox to gore or a nest to feather, you can bet there is politician available and willing to accept your vote to Get the Deed Done. Oh, and contributions gladly accepted.

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  12. Although I don't get either an annual check or a thank you card, my electric company actually does something similar to your suggestion in the final paragraph. We can "sponsor" panels in our electric coop's "Community Solar" array located in rural northern Vermont (a great place for solar power!).

    Getting around the legalese of whether we are actually investing or owning or renting the panels, essentially we can prepay our electric bills for 10 or 20 years by investing in this project. No need for rooftop panels. I calculated that my electric coop is giving me a 6.5% rate of return for the next 20 years.

    I assume they are selling the tax credits and other subsidies to someone. I don't know who to thank for the nice rate of return they are giving me.

    https://www.vermontelectric.coop/programs-services/co-op-community-solar

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  13. If I was rich in California, Id say great for the state. The Federal Government sends me half or two thirds of the money for installing panels on each of my houses. Thats its great for the state having all that Federal tax money pouring in from the other 49 other states.

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  14. It's a great blog post. On the other hand, it is an old trick performed by politicians. Create a big constituency for a subsidy, and thus, a big voting bloc, and thus, you never get rid of it. It is Public Choice at its best (or worst...).
    Another example are film tax credits. There is a big constituency that lives around these credits. And so, it is very difficult to eliminate them (now, some states have eliminated them, to their great credit).

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  15. There's a certain Mr. Elon Musk in California, known to be friendly and influential with politicians and not adverse to taking government financing and favors of all varieties. Mandating rooftop solar panels is also a way to build a market for his Tesla Powerwall and solar roof tile empire.

    Maybe it's a twofer: constituency building for solar continued solar subsidies, and corporate welfare for Tesla.

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  16. Getting stuff done through the political process is always a complicated mess, the complete opposite of what economists recommend. See for example the 70,000 page tax code.

    The technical challenge with solar. This is not generally appreciated by people who haven’t sat down and read a textbook on how the grid really functions. Imagine a curve that starts low at 10am, shoots up high at midday, and drop downs to almost zero in the mid-afternoon. Now everyone is producing energy like this. So the supply of electricity at midday is greater than the demand. This actually creates a technical problem of grid instability. This is solvable but probably expensive. There are regulations (grid codes) in all grid operators for the maximum non-synchronous power that can be added to the grid. It also creates the problem of what to do with the excess power. In Germany on certain nights the wind power exceeds the total demand and they pay Norway to take it. They pay. Not Norway pays them.

    At this point most people not across the realities (costs) say things like “Tesla powerwall" and then I wish I was as great at marketing as Lord Musk.

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  17. I got a chuckle out of this one.

    From Senator Chuck Grassley, GOP Senator Iowa:

    "As a free-market conservative, I believe that competition spurs innovation, encourages dialogue and ultimately delivers the best quality products to consumers. That’s one of the many reasons I believe so strongly in ethanol as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy."

    Now, ee know know the definition of a "free-market conservative": Towering hypocrite and emboldened prevaricator.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/11/ethanol-is-critical-for-americas-energy-strategy-sen-grassley.html

    Some people say Trump has lowered the bar in DC.

    I wonder if the real beef with Trump is that he is a tell-tale caricature of DC, rather than an aberration.



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  18. There's another wasteland in California: It's called the Inland Empire. While not the crown jewel of creation, it's distance from the ocean and location in what is considered meterologically a desert, there's a lot of sunlight throughout the year. No angry billboards from farmers, but plenty of demand for new housing in the area. Does solar make sense out there? Maybe. There's plenty of grid issues and shutdowns during the summer, when temperatures reach 120 degrees out in Palm Springs, and 100 degrees in Riverside and San Bernardino.

    Who is going to win in this push for solar? Consumers? Solar Providers? California? It's going to depend on one where lives.

    One interesting factoid: The city of Banning has its own electrical grid that is not part of SCE. They have a monopoly! I wonder how they'll react to the 2020 solar mandate.

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  19. John,

    I get that you are a conservative economist by trade and that California is target rich environment for your ire, but these "California is terrible because liberals" posts aren't very illuminating. It mostly comes across as just holier-than-thou whining. It's your blog, though, so do as you like.

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    1. Not only by trade but also by obligation to employer (Hoover Institution). John must serve the institution's purpose or risk being replaced by someone else who will.
      --E5

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    2. Yes Adam, but at least John's whining is well written, interestingly reasoned, and lacks the irrational anger that is in my foxnews-believing friends.
      --E5

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    3. E5: To clarify the facts, Hoover is a nonpartisan academic institution. The only "purpose" I must serve is to do good work. There is no party line on any issue, and in fact Hoover fellows disagree in public on a lot. We also have the standard protections on freedom of inquiry of Stanford faculty. I can write anything I want on this blog -- and take full responsibility for it.

      John

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  20. I was reading another article in the New York Times. Apparently the regulation allows builders to either put panels on each house or build a shared facility elsewhere. I don't know if the shared facility can be many miles from the home (which would make sense for me as I live in San Jose).

    One of the commissioners proudly states that this is desired and economical for the home buyers. If that's the case, I don't understand why it needs to be mandated. Surely home buyers will figure that out and demand solar panels be available.

    The fine article also mentioned there was basically no opposition to the proposal. I wonder who knew about it. You'd hope affordable housing advocates would notice this is going to make houses more expensive.

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  21. HELCO (Hawaiian Electric) got the right idea. They get more PV from rooftops than they know what to do with. So they are urging adoption of electric vehicles that take charge during daytime. HELCO will do good business as redistributor of energy.
    California business operators understood this was coming. That is why when they deregulated the electricity sector they separated generation business (shortly to become history) from distribution business (future profits).
    Subsidies for rooftop solar are a mechanism for getting the rest of ordinary folks to pay (from tax money) for the generating capacity that will make future profits for the redistribution companies.
    Anything wrong with that?
    --E5

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome. Keep it short, polite, and on topic.

Thanks to a few abusers I am now moderating comments. I welcome thoughtful disagreement. I will block comments with insulting or abusive language. I'm also blocking totally inane comments. Try to make some sense. I am much more likely to allow critical comments if you have the honesty and courage to use your real name.