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Save The Grid

July 18, 2014

There is a cancer eating away at the grid, and it goes by the name, PV rooftop solar.

The spread of this disease is facilitated by renewable portfolio standards (RPS), where states require utilities to increase their sale of electricity from renewable sources.

Net-metering accelerates the spread of the disease by forcing utilities to pay owners of PV rooftop solar systems more for electricity than it’s worth.

There is a cure, but poorly informed legislatures are avoiding it.

It’s also a very simple cure, analogous to penicillin in the fight against bacterial diseases: It’s called, eliminating subsidies.

Without subsidies, the disease will die out, by cutting off the life blood of new PV rooftop solar installations.

PV Rooftop Solar Installation Photo by D. Dears

PV Rooftop Solar Installation Photo by D. Dears

Germany has shown how the disease can cause the death of electric utilities and the grid. While German utilities are still alive, they are in intensive care.

The CEO’s of German utilities have called for measures that would put them on life support, a demand charge added to customer’s bills to cover the cost of maintaing the power generation facilities needed to supply electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

This near death condition has been caused by highly destructive feed-in tariffs, i.e., net-metering on steroids, resulting in the rapid spread of PV solar cancer cells.

Thirty-three states in the United States have enacted RPS laws requiring each utility to sell an increasingly large proportion of electricity from renewable sources. The disease, except in California, is still in its infancy stages, since RPS requirements in most states are still only around 2%.

But, the states’ RPS requirements will increase rapidly by 2025, only ten years from now, when RPS laws will require that 25% to 33% of electricity come from renewables.

Net metering requires utilities to pay homeowners with PV solar systems an inflated price for any excess electricity their rooftop systems produce. Typically the utility must pay homeowners between 11 and 16 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) for the electricity the utility could generate for 5 cents per kWh.

Utilities must make up this increased cost by raising prices to customers that don’t have PV solar installations. The utility must be able to pay for maintaining transmission and distribution systems, for which most PV solar homeowners get a free ride.

In addition, the utility is deprived of the revenue from these homeowners. While this lost revenue is still a relatively small amount, it will increase as the cancer spreads and more people install subsidized PV solar systems.

This lack of revenue will hollow out the utility system until utilities are unprofitable, and unable to continue generating electricity for those who don’t have PV solar systems.

Saving the grid is important, for several reasons.

People who live in cities are unable, for the most part, to install PV solar systems, and must get electricity from the grid.

Wind farms need the grid to bring electricity to where it can be used: Without the grid, energy from wind is impossible.

Industries need the grid for low-cost electricity. Without the grid they must install far more costly generation equipment.

Even those with PV solar systems need the grid to get electricity when the sun doesn’t shine, at night or on cloudy days.

In short, the grid is indispensable.

As is true with all cancers, catching it at an early stage improves the possibility of killing it.

The PV rooftop solar cancer can be killed by eliminating subsidies for PV solar installations, eliminating RPS that fosters the disease, and net metering that sustains it.

Now is the time to save the grid.

* * * * *

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Kay Barton permalink
    July 18, 2014 9:25 am

    Hi Donn,

    Good article!  Thanks!

    Just wanted to let you know there is typo though:

    “for which most PV solar homeowners get a fee ride” — should be free ride

    Best regards,

    Mary Kay Barton


  2. July 18, 2014 9:37 am

    Thought you might find this related costs issue article interesting (for subsidized home-use wind turbines). See the excerpt below:

    ‘PC’ power is not “sustainable”:

    Wind Power–Our Financial Burden

    Consider wind power. Whether you’re talking about massive, multi-billion-dollar projects covering miles of ridge-lines and hundreds of thousands of acres with mammoth 400- to 500-foot-tall industrial wind turbines (which kill nearly a half-million birds and bats without penalty every year, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and American Bird Conservancy), or you mean the comparatively smaller turbines being installed for personal home use around the country – both are being erected thanks to billions of dollars in generous state and federal incentives forcibly collected from taxpayers and ratepayers.

    A recent news story in Western New York fairly sparkled with praise for one of these small wind projects. A semi-retired small farm owner and his wife just installed their third personal-size “windmill,” with high hopes that the turbines will provide much of their electricity.

    “State and federal incentives,” the article explained, “are covering almost the entire $75,000 cost for the new windmill.” Similar state and federal “grants” had paid half the cost for the first two ($55,000 each).

    That adds up to $130,000 that the rest of us taxpayers and ratepayers paid to cover the cost of one residence’s electricity. And yet, when the wind isn’t blowing hard enough, is blowing too hard, or is not blowing at all, the part-time farmers will still be utilizing the same “baseload” sources (hydroelectric, natural gas, coal and nuclear) that we all rely on. They get “free” electricity, while we pay for PC power and redundancy.

    The Heritage Foundation recently reported the startling news that the “average” American’s annual income is now $32,400, while those living off government entitlements average $32,700 per year. That means the $130,000 that actual ratepayers and taxpayers are paying to cover the cost for one residence to get this PC electricity equals more than four years of before-tax wages for today’s “average” worker.

    Suppose now that 100 residences across New York (or any) State are able to get the same deal, and have one to three home-use-size turbines installed. Those 100 residences would get their PC electricity at a cost to the rest of us of $7,500,000 to $22,500,000. It’s evident how quickly PC power’s costs add up.

    New York State is ranked as one of the worst states in the country for doing business. The reasons include our high taxes, onerous regulations and high electricity rates. A recent Manhattan Institute report noted that states like New York that have mandated the use of PC wind power and other “renewables” have seen their electricity rates soar ever higher – increasing by 30% to 50% above prior levels.

    Unsustainable for the Rest of Us

    So while a few folks may be lucky recipients of personalized PC electricity installed at their homes, the rest of us must pay these costs through higher tax and utility bills, the economy worsening as businesses and industries avoid or leave the state, hospitals and schools cutting staff and services to pay their higher electricity bills, and “average” wage earners struggling even harder to make ends meet.

    This is “sustainable”? This is caring about working people and our poor? This is our energy future?

    Isn’t it wonderful how our government offers $55,000 to $225,000 or more to encourage rural families to install personal wind turbines on their property, while the rest of us “get” to pay the tab?

    Will it really surprise anyone when today’s “average” wage earners simply decide it isn’t worth the struggle anymore, and join the ranks of those living on the government/taxpayer dole?……………..

    • July 18, 2014 9:45 am

      Thanks. Personal wind is just as bad as PV roof-top solar. Personal wind and PV solar are being foisted on Americans by radical environmentalists who really don’t care about how their actions hurt Americans.

      • July 18, 2014 9:57 am

        But as you say, it wouldn’t be happening without the government-approved subsidies for this nonsense. I think it’s time that ratepayers & taxpayers demand that their elected officials pass an energy literacy exam before being allowed to pass on such cost exorbitant policies to consumers. Where’s Ralph Nader when you need him???

  3. July 18, 2014 10:05 am

    That’s a great idea.

  4. July 18, 2014 5:52 pm

    Hey Donn,

    This energy sector is so huge and vital that America needs intelligent, informed debate on it. So I very much appreciate your determined efforts to provide and provoke it.

    Just a few “talking points” and questions, maybe more later if I think of any:

    1. Would you be in favor of an open market for electricity, so that if my solar-generated power was worth 5 cents/KWH or more to “the grid,” then my local utility would be free to buy it from me, or not? This question presumes not only the elimination (as you demand) of all RPS and net-metering requirements, but ALSO the elimination of all anti-competitive practices. Hence, there could be no utility tying contracts that, for example, bind power companies to buy from only a big coal or nuke plant to the exclusion of all other sources. Private capital (right, no government direct or indirect hand-outs) thus can invest at its own risk in giga-size coal, gas, nuke, solar or wind facilities and thus assume the risk of technologically disruptive downwind inventions (like wave-tech generation in coastal areas, or hyper-efficient geo-thermal sourcing in “Iceland-like” areas).

    To be clear: No government guarantees against risk of loss, no more corporate welfare, crony capitalism, or protectionism.

    But by the same token, power companies would NOT be allowed (as in Georgia) to enter into any tying arrangements or otherwise violate anti-trust laws, so that a free market for electricity generation can develop.

    Are you down for all of that?

    Because there’s a decidedly free-market bent behind this and many of your other posts (hey, I’m with you buddy!), and so I guess it’d be useful to know if you’re consistent in your beliefs and opinions.

    2. Would you also be in favor of eliminating “Territorial Act” laws like we have in Georgia, whereby the local utility can sue me if I sell my power to that adjoining elementary school?

    Basically, would you be in favor of deregulating the grid like our nation did with airlines and the telephony sector in recent decades?

    And yes, this would allow “the grid” to charge fair (not anti-competitive, predatory, etc.) access fees to non-revenue customers like me, should I choose to remain tied to it. I’m not sure of the details on that score because it’s complicated. After all, the grid is a government-sanctioned monopoly (there can be only one set of power line polls on the side of our roadways until wireless comes along). But I agree that forcing utilities to lose money in preference of a power source (green or otherwise) is just plain stupid.

    3. If I’m correct that you truly are a free marketeer, then should you not also discuss the fact that the energy sector sits atop a huge mass of government mandated, turf-protecting, anti-competitive, brown-power preserving laws and regulations — the same “government interference” that you decry here, with respect to solar power?

    Put another way, please confirm my take from your posts: You’re not against solar power per se, you’re simply against misusing the power of the state to artificially boost it to the market forefront.

    So I reckon you’d want to join me in reconsidering the entire electricity sector, with an eye toward deregulating it and let the “best” power source rise to the top, free of forced-purchase policies like RPS and net-metering laws, plus brown-power-turf-protecting laws AND free of all government subsidies — yes?

    4. Course, that gets us back to fair pricing and whether those who poop in the fish tank (our environment) in which we all swim ought to pay a price for that, so that those who don’t (renewable power generators) can get true, comparative pricing on their product.

    Put another way, those who consume public resources (our water, our air) — those who POLLUTE our resources (poop) — indisputably enjoy a cost-advantage over those who don’t. Do I have your agreement that some price-manipulation (e.g. carbon taxing) would be fair? Unless, of course, you’re in favor of eliminating all environmental protection and just letting any business willy-nilly pollute, in a race-to-the-bottom (environmentally speaking) in quest of the lowest-price energy goal. You’re not on THAT bandwagon, are you?

    I’m guessing not. So, assuming you favor sensible environmental protection, do you not agree that brown-power producers (coal, gas, nukes, etc.) should at least pay something for the very pollution (air and water consumption) their product consumes and that renewables spare?

    Or, are you adamant that all power generation should be left untouched by government, and no environmental protection of any sort should be instituted?

    • July 19, 2014 9:12 am

      Thanks for the comments. It seems to me the questions side step the issue of PV solar destroying the grid.
      However, I will try to respond.
      I believe market forces are best at making economic decisions, but do not believe in trying to include externalities. And, subsidies distort the market.
      1.I would be happy with PV roof-top solar installations if they were disconnected from the grid.
      This would be a pure economic decision, where the owner would select the lowest cost alternative: Either installing a PV system with storage or a home generator, compared with buying electricity from the grid.
      2. Externalities are always based on opinion, rather than accurate economic costs. For example: PV solar panels use toxic materials. What is the cost of mining and processing those toxic material and of disposing them safely when the PV system is scrapped?
      3. With respect to subsidies. Any discussion of subsidies is distorted by how subsidies are defined.
      A payment by the government to a homeowner, either directly or through the tax system, is a subsidy. Few can deny that.
      However, some say depletion allowance is a subsidy, when in fact it is a financial measurement that recognizes that the resource is being used up and that it costs money to replace it. It’s analogous to depreciation.
      My earlier article on subsidies discusses this issue. See Fossil Fuel Subsidies at

      While not getting into the weeds, I’ve tried to address your questions, while recognizing that the real issue is “how PV roof-top solar systems are destroying the grid”

  5. Catcracking permalink
    July 21, 2014 12:42 am

    Donn, An excellent article and while I am much less familiar with the grid and electricity generation I share your concern for the grid reliability.

    Christopher, you raise some interesting points although I am sure you are aware that many of the so called green energies are not that green at all such as mandated ethanol from corn. One of the concerns that must be considered is who gets to decide what is green and what is polluting and who pays for resources and who gets to use them free. Unfortunately I don’t trust the politicians to make these decisions fairly and intelligently.

    For example we see, at least in Nevada, that tax payer subsidized wind farms are allowed to use federal property without fees whereas Cattle Ranchers and others are required to pay for land use. Even lands set aside for protected species are adjusted with the right political enabler.
    We know that oil and gas production pays significant fees via bidding and subsequently pays royalties for production which I firmly agree with. Yet others pay nothing. Besides they get a pass on killing birds while others don’t.

    The administration has developed an economic model where they put an arbitrary steep price on CO2 emissions calling it a pollutant which I don’t agree with.

    Similarly there is talk about the methane emissions from cattle. The problem is who gets a pass and who get penalized and who establishes the price. It is the same with water usage which is really important. I assume you are aware that so called green energy for corn for ethanol has put a strain on the water table in parts of the country. Yet the government mandates a certain percentage of ethanol in our gasoline. Also I attended a conference in the South several years ago and learned that the runoff from these farms has resulted in realizing that a rather large dead area in the Gulf is caused by runoff. Should we fine the farmers for this pollution? How Much?

    I was surprised to learn that our government is issuing permits for wind farms to kill bald Eagles. See below:
    Wind farms kill eagles. The infamous Altamont Pass alone kills 65-70 eagles per year, and a study released in September 2013 by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists documented an additional 67 eagle deaths elsewhere over the last five years. But those are just the ones we know about. The toll is likely higher, and it’s increasing. Nationwide, wind turbines have been estimated to kill 573,000 birds per year, including 83,000 raptors.

    On the other hand if an endangered bird lands on a patch of oil in a tax paying fossil industry, the same government agency extracts huge fines and threatens closure.

    In my opinion it is not that simple to have the government regulate so many things, although I agree that we have made significant progress to reduce pollution and I don’t want to go back to finding soot on my auto every morning and having the Delaware river smell bad (probably due to raw sewerage) as we crossed it in a ferry.
    Finally I worry about the governments destroying the electricity grid by unrealistic mandates for costly and unreliable energy sources which cannot meet the demand.

  6. July 22, 2014 5:28 pm


    These are all statements you’ve made in response to my points:

    1. “I would be happy with PV roof-top solar installations if they were disconnected from the grid.”

    2. “PV solar panels use toxic materials. What is the cost of mining and processing those toxic material and of disposing them safely when the PV system is scrapped?”

    3. “Subsidies” — just how they’re defined can be politicized.

    You and commenters touch on the negative consequences flowing from PV and other government-driven/affected choices like wind power, brown-power “depletion allowance” subsidies and my favorite, the “Church of Ethanol.”

    But what you and they ignore is that GOVERNMENT (as opposed to, say, Southern Power, or the Nestle Corporation) is our universal default choice for making the hard decisions on which energy sources get supported financially and regulatorily and which are not.

    And government choices that, viewed through one lens may seem bad, in fact may not be once viewed as part of The Big Picture (the good of our nation, if not our planet).

    Example: Let’s say that 100,000 or so birds a year get chewed up by wind and solar thermal plants. Well ya know what? Through our government we’ve all “decided” (by not protesting enough) that we’ll live with that.

    Why? Because 100,000 dead birds a year is drop in the ocean compared to the 1 billion that get chewed up by the ultimate invasive species: The American House Cat.

    Greenies know this but don’t dare advocate the extermination of cats like government undertakes to do with other invaders like the python snake and lionfish in Florida. Cats are “pretty animals” and we like them too much. Hell, they can’t even be used for food consumption, etc., like “less pretty” animals (livestock) are used.

    Neither you nor the commenters here have acknowledged that elephant in the room — that Government makes the call on these things, and it’s not always wrong (do you want to go back to no seat belts, greater tail pipe emissions and the maximum 15-21 mpg cars that we experienced in our youth?).

    I personally don’t like politicians and their bureaucrats making all those decisions. But I don’t trust private enterprise to do the right thing when it comes to our environment and maintaining a competitive energy marketplace, either (I suppose this validates Thomas Paine’s conclusion that “government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one”).

    The flaw I find in this and many of your posts is that you identify and gripe about a given flaw in a vacuum. Take what you’ve done here, where you’ve illuminated the economic negatives of subsidizing and mandatorily grid-connecting PV (it guts grid capital value, unfairly de facto taxes low-income ratepayers, ultimately acts to economically kill the grid outright, etc.).

    But you never view the problem in the Big Picture context. You never consider whether one step backwards might be required to take two steps forward. High-liquid-fuel costs grids like Hawaii are reporting relative present and anticipate future success in that regard:

    It’s been rocky, but it’s being worked out:

    Donn, you’ve consistently ignored the fact that sure, tough choices MUST be made (e.g., sure, solar panel production produces pollution and consumes 1-2 years worth of pay-back energy; but government has decided that the net gain from solar is worth it).

    Indeed, such decisions are made all the time (again, recall our own past when government raised safety, pollution-protection and mpg limits on cars).

    Just advocating that PV should not be connected to a grid is a policy choice that makes sense to you (no, not to me; I mean, geezis, you’re not advocating that telephone owners NOT have guaranteed access to the telecommunications grid, are you? Like telephones, PV only makes “workability sense” and economic sense when connected to the grid).

    Another tough choice you’ve ignored: Pollution trade-offs. I vote for politicians to implement my policy choice: I’d rather pay more for electricity in exchange for cleaner air (hence, less coal, more green power), while you would not. Fair enough. But at least weigh that policy dynamic when you come out against an energy-sector choice, all right? Because by tacitly agreeing with me on “government regulation” of vehicle safety, mpg and pollution, you’ve acknowledged that it makes no sense to analyze and bitch about some aspect of the vehicle market without passing on those hard policy choices in light of the Big Picture.

    Ditto for the energy market.

    This entire column (with comments) is very useful because it nicely encapsulates the bewildering complexity of the energy problems we face in a nation saddled with monopoly-owned (hence, they demand government regulation, since history shows what evil unregulated monopoly power can do) power systems and grids.

    But please focus: We give up 100% pure air (hence, we pollute plenty of it) in exchange for being able to drive our own cars to work each day (the height of waste), rather than all jump on mass-commute transportation modes. We knowingly kill wildlife by allowing citizens to own cats and build and fly jets that chew up over a billion birds a year.

    We make all of those decisions through our government — by backing or at least not rejecting its regulations.

    So I’m asking you again:

    1. In opposing a government decision to favor (subsidize, etc.) solar PV and economically “damage” grids, are you advocating a 100% free market alternative? That is, are you insisting that utilties should be free to build and buy power from any source, such as coal, no matter how polluting?

    2. If so, do you favor ANY pollution controls?

    3. If you do, do you favor controlling that pollution through price (carbon tax), or directly (e.g., that one must build the following air-scrubbing equipment onto each coal plant)?

    I urge you and the other commenters here to not simply list the specific ills that arise from each energy source, but instead focus more holistically and analytically on our national and global energy policies. A lot of greenies pick one issue (bird protection, or air pollution, or collateral water pollution/consumption) and hyper-focus on that, when in fact the Big Picture is paramount, since we are all living in that Big Picture, and not within a crusader’s myopic vision where hard trade-off choices are simply ignored.

    Conversely, a lot of “brownies” (those who oppose greenies and want the current, brown-power predominated market undisturbed, even though that market is saddled with turf-protecting, anti-competitive laws and regulations) gripe about a particular green upstart (grid-tied PV, for example) without even trying to think about how current energy systems can be profitably reconfigured to let PV compete on a fair playing field. And they simply ignore the pollution cost to leaving the status quo intact, complete with all the anti-competitive regulations purchased by brown power lobbyists.

    You’ve just done that here, Donn. I flat-out asked you OK, if we eliminate all government compulsion (let utilities buy my solar PV power at your stated, wholesale rate of 5 cents/KWH) AND we eliminate things like the Georgia Territorial Act (preventing solar PV guys like me from entering the free market), would that cure your objection to PV, especially since then it would NOT be premised on government price and purchasing coercion?

    That question is not dragging us “down into the weeds” but directly on point with your column’s core conclusion. I invite you to directly answer it.

    Thanks again for your time and effort in producing this forum.

    • July 22, 2014 5:59 pm

      Thanks. Very interesting comments. It’s obvious you have taken considerable time to put your thoughts in writing.
      After carefully reading your comments, I believe my original answer to your question, is the best answer.
      However, let me comment on two items you have raised.
      First, the issue isn’t Big government against No government, it’s Big government versus Limited government and Freedom.
      To paraphrase what someone said: Any government big enough to solve all your problems, is big enough to control you.
      Next, with respect to CO2: You infer that CO2 is a pollutant.
      CO2 is not a pollutant, but is a necessary requirement for life on Earth.
      The idea that CO2 causes global warming is the driving force behind policies that try to force the adoption of renewables, such as solar and wind, and result in regulations that harm Americans.
      Yet, CO2 can have only a small effect on global temperatures. CO2 is not a threat.
      The ninth International Conference on Climate Change has just concluded in Las Vegas. Over 600 people attended the conference that had 69 speakers, many of whom are renowned scientists.
      Anyone who watches most of these presentations will likely conclude that CO2 is not a threat.
      All of the talks are available at the conference website,
      In my view these are the Big Picture: Freedom and so-called Global Warming.
      As much as I would enjoy a debate on other issues, I just don’t have the time.
      Besides, I think they are a distraction from the Big Picture.
      I appreciate your comments, but it’s clear that we have different views on the role of government.
      I’m on the side of Limited government and Freedom.

  7. July 23, 2014 8:42 am

    Some additional perspective:

    — Yes, it’s an editorial, but it illuminates what a (sort of) free market can deliver: renewable energy economically and ecologically trumping expensive fossil fuel (and wood-burning) energy on free market terms.

    Naturally, that trumping will happen first in the relatively more expensive, liquid-fueled electricity sectors like Alaska, Hawaii, and non-grid sectors such as in Africa (what I call the “First Wave” market for free market based, renewable power). The editorial showcases the innovations made thus far, and since this is a TRILLION dollar market (over the next 20 years), it will provide valuable answers for Americans and their national grid.

    Why? Because with no entrenched brown power interests (no grid, no big-ass coal/nuke/gas plants), there’s nothing to stop the free market from enabling superior, renewable products to fill that vacuum. As the editorial describes, solar and wind may well win that race on sheer economic grounds (note the mini-grid design with electricity storage components that will constantly be tweaked as over a billion people get used to electricity, A-C, and other creature comforts — and thus will be highly motivated to find a way for renewable, non-polluting power to work for them).

    The economies of scale and learning curve springing from these markets undoubtedly will redound to the benefit of ALL grid-based markets:

    My question: Would this First Wave market uptick have happened without government encouragement/enablement?

    I don’t know. And it can’t be denied that governments, NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations) and other, non-free-enterprise efforts (solar-greenie org’s) “taint” this laboratory for studying free enterprise in the energy sector.

    But we know this about the human dynamic (where pain and pleasure drive all human behavior) — the uptick of renewable power in the First Wave sector would simply never happen were brown-power (diesel, kerosene, wood) fuel to remain cheap enough. You know why: Because most people don’t care enough about the environment to alter their behavior. Only when an energy cost is high enough and a market alternative is cheap enough do they change. Wallet-pain rules here.

    Meanwhile, these First Wave markets will be especially valuable, in terms of market-study data, for another reason: Because with no pre-existing brown-power entrenchments, there’s been no countervailing force (as in the U.S., where we have brown power fights green power), to infect government in order to thwart the free-market-driven green power upsurge detailed in the editorial. There will be no established, brown-power fueled utility sector like we see in my state, where it got turf-protecting (blatantly anti-competitive) laws passed and thus keeps me from installing solar arrays on elementary school roofs and competing with the utility and thus its brown-power sourcing.

    So you and I, Donn, will be able to study and learn from “virgin” markets where (hopefully) the best energy source (brown vs. green) will win, on free-market terms, while unimpeded (or un-boosted) by government.

    I study history, by the way, and commend you to read how those who get to a market first misuse government to thwart competitors (pat particular attention to the AT&T story, and how Ma Bell retarded technological progress for decades before government finally wised up and disassembled it):

    • July 23, 2014 2:50 pm

      Your latest comments came as I was answering your previous comments. Here is my response to your latest comments.
      I addressed the use of renewables on Islands and other areas not connected to a grid in my article on LCOEs, where I pointed out that a combination of wind, solar and fossil fuels will be arrived at based on economics. I also pointed out that their use in these circumstances is not transferable to the continental United States.
      People do care about the environment and will alter their behavior when they believe their actions actually hurt the environment, providing society has the financial resources to address environmental problems. For example, China isn’t ignoring the environment, it’s just that a billion Chinese still live in what amounts to poverty. The fact is, that rich societies have the money available to address environmental problems.
      I’m also very familiar with the breakup of AT&T, which was a monopoly established by government fiat.
      I remember the role of Bill McGowan and his MCI phone company that was part of the market forces leading to the breakup of AT&T. You may be interested in this article
      As far as the breakup of Ma-Bell is concerned, it was changing technologies and the free market system that led to its breakup by the courts.
      I happen to be a student of history from the period of the 1300s to today. Not so much ancient history, though I have visited Hadrian’s wall, the antiquities in Rome, the Cairo museum with its high calibre exhibits on ancient Egypt, as well as other areas such as Bahrain, a possible location for the Dilmun civilization, and also Persepolis from the Persian Empire.
      I mention this, not to get into a contest over who is most knowledgeable on history, but to establish that my articles aren’t prepared in isolation from historic fact.

  8. August 14, 2014 5:27 pm

    I came across this, and since it’s a key factor in a lot of analysis about the economic viability of solar and renewable power in general, I’d like to know whether you think this fellow’s point is valid or is he just talking into the wind:

    • August 14, 2014 7:15 pm

      Amory has been a bon vivant on energy issues for years.
      I don’t think he has much to “dance” to, in his example. My view, is watch Germany: See how they handle PV solar and wind.

  9. August 15, 2014 8:02 am

    I agree. Germany’s way out in front.

    So, is this article accurate or full of baloney?

    Money Quote: “The unspoken assumption, then, is that an electricity system that is constantly switching that rapidly between different electricity sources and providers, with swings that big in price, must result in an unreliable experience for the average German consumer. The data from the Council of European Energy Regulators shows that’s not the case. The crazed internal dynamics of Germany’s grid may be stressful for its operators. But the country has managed to stitch all those changes together into a remarkably consistent and reliable stream of electricity for German customers.”

    • August 15, 2014 9:21 am

      Mary Kay Barton, see below, has a good response based on the facts in Germany.

  10. Mary Kay Barton permalink
    August 15, 2014 8:58 am

    Full of baloney! See:

    German Utilities Bail Out Electric Grid at Wind’s Mercy:

    REPORT: Renewable Subsidies Can Lead to Severe, Unintended Consequences:

    Click to access germany_lessonslearned_final_071014.pdf

    Sun, wind & drain — Wind & solar power are even more expensive than is commonly thought:

    Alternative energy failures abroad should serve as a warning

  11. August 15, 2014 7:14 pm

    Thanks, Mary Kay. I especially liked this one:

    Click to access germany_lessonslearned_final_071014.pdf

    I’m assured by my state’s (Georgia’s) PSC commissioners that they are studying Germany’s mistakes and thus seeking to avoid them.

    Georgia, by the way, has had no inflated Feed-In-Tarriff, just an “avoided cost” statute, and Georgia Power is now paying what it considers market rate for renewable energy.

    The State had a modest ($5 million total limit for all renewable energy tax credits) subsidy program and its PSC insists it’s seeking avoid European mistakes.

    Still, I find things like the “capacity value factors” difficult to sort out. It’s worth more study.

    I thank you again, Donn, as this is one of the few places one can consult for hard data and analysis. So much of the other energy stuff is either “Koch Brothers Conspiracy” or Greenie Pipe Dreams.

  12. August 15, 2014 9:30 pm

    Here’s an interesting one, but the claims sound too good to be true:

  13. August 16, 2014 8:47 am

    The Wall Street Journal article on August 15, RWE Says German Energy Security at Risk. Germany only has around 23% of its electricity from wind and solar, rather than the 80% they are targeting, yet their system is in trouble. There is no myth when it comes to the problems created by wind and solar in Germany. Anyone can fiddle with a computer program and create beautiful scenarios.
    James, thanks for posting the video clip.

  14. August 29, 2014 2:43 pm

    Hey Donn,

    I found this. I guess I just want to place it here so that, when we look back we can see who was right — whether our Pacific brethren here are on a fool’s errand or not:

    Meanwhile, keep up the good work!

    • August 29, 2014 5:34 pm

      Hawaii is a special case, because it lacks natural resources of coal and natural gas. It’s interesting to note, in the article, that they are looking into LNG to replace Oil.


  1. Exposed: The Economic Failure Of The Climate Change Movement | EPA Abuse

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