Clean Power

Published on December 23rd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Feed-In Tariffs 101

December 23rd, 2012 by  

One of our readers, a top clean energy analyst/expert, dropped an excellent little document about feed-in tariffs into the comments of one of our posts the other day — Feed-in Tariffs: The Proven Road Not Taken… Why Not?. For anyone not that familiar with feed-in tariffs, this is the document to get caught up on them. It also includes some useful nuggets of information (and a good example of how to talk about feed-in tariffs) to those more familiar with the world-leading clean energy policy.

I highly encourage checking out the doc, but two charts or salient pieces of information not included in it that I think are worth a view are these from John Farrell:

While checking it out, I decided to just pull out a few of the key points for those who won’t take the time to read the full doc (it’s really not very long, but I know how tight time is). Here are those points:

What Are Feed-In Tariffs?

First of all, a quick summary of what these awkwardly named babies are:

“Feed-in tariffs (FIT) are a policy mechanism  designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies. Producers of renewable energy are paid a set rate for the electricity they produce, usually differentiated according to the technology used (wind, solar, biomass, and the size of the installation. FITs guarantee that anyone who generates electricity from a renewable energy source—whether they are a homeowner, small business, or large electric utility—is able to sell that electricity into the grid and receive long-term payments for each kilowatt-hour produced.”

Germany: 24x More Solar PV

Germany is the clear global leader for installed solar PV, and FITs have been key to its success. “To illustrate the effectiveness of the FIT in Germany, the installed capacity of solar PV in Germany has increased from approximately 1 GW in 2004 (1 billion watts—the rough equivalent to the output of one nuclear power plant) to over 24 GW at the end of 2011. While at the same time the price of the FIT has decreased from over .50 to .60 euro’s cents per kWh to less than .20 eurocents per kWh, which incidentally, is actually cheaper than the average retail electricity rate in Germany….

“Germany, a country that receives half the average insolation that the US receives, set a 2010 target of 12.5 percent share of renewable energy in electric generation in 2000. In 2007, they surpassed that goal with 15.1 percent, 20 percent better and two years ahead of schedule. Since Germany has launched their FIT program, approximately 35 to 40 countries have followed suit and implemented their own FIT program.”

They Ain’t Just In Germany

“More than 80 jurisdictions around the world now use or have used FITs to pay for new renewable generation. In fact, FITs now dominate policy for renewable energy worldwide, with 60 percent more jurisdictions—states, provinces and entire countries—using FITs than are now using quota systems such as Renewable Portfolio Standards or Renewable Energy Standards.”

“It is an interesting note that in 2006 China avoided implementing a FIT, taking the view that FITs triggered too rapid market growth…. In 2011, however, the Chinese implemented a FIT program, and their domestic market is now booming, with Chinese solar manufacturing having scaled up to the point where it can address this huge new market without reliance on imports.”

FITs Save Money

“In 2008, Germany’s additional cost for their national FIT was $3.2 billion euros. The return for the cost of the FIT calculated by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment was:
» $7.8 billion euros from reduced amounts of fossil and nuclear fuels purchased
» $9.2 billion euros saved from the avoidance of external costs”

So, Who’s Opposed To FITs?

“The number one opponent to FITs is the local electric utility. These utilities argue that FITs work contrary to the market, but most utilities are not driven by the ‘market’—they are monopolies, and monopolies, by definition, do not respond to market forces. Positive results in a developed country like Germany show that FITs are far more market-oriented than monopolies.

“Furthermore, powerful contributors, such as utilities and fossil fuel companies, do not want infringement on their businesses, and will oppose efforts to kick-start an industry that will compete against them. But, there is no economically valid opposition to FIT’s if the primary consideration is the welfare of the country and the long-term health of the planet.”

Christmas Wish/Dream

One of my top Christmas wishes (or dreams) is that FITs will get a lot more attention and implementation in the US in the coming year. One can dream…

Again, check out the full feed-in tariff 101 here.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

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  • I read the whole document, and I still don’t know what a feed in tariff is, how it works, or how it could apply to me. Don’t expect the average congressman to understand it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s basically a sales contract. The purchaser, usually a utility company, agrees to pay a certain amount per kWh for a set number of years.

      If we had a FiT system for rooftop solar in the US you would be able to put solar on your roof and get paid for the electricity you sent to the grid.
      If the FiT was set at average system price then it would make sense for you to try to install as cheaply as possible and make some profits from your system. That drives down costs.

      Congress members have staff whose jobs it is to understand things for them.

      Unfortunately some members allow lobbyists to do the ‘splaining and deciding….

  • Peter Segaar /

    Somehow I miss pure net-metering schemes. They are the market drivers for countries like Netherlands and Denmark. (and also in many nascent markets such as in South America)

    In NL 58 MWp market growth in 2011, only 20 MWp of that was sort of a FIT (SDE), the rest was almost all exclusively net-metered (which is a liability, and not certain to exist for many years). My small installation is net metered as of March 2000.

    Denmark pushed over 200 MWp in a year time in 2012, with pure net-metering over the period of a billed year (no FIT). Ministry of Climate and Energy there is cutting the net-metering scheme to one hour time of use, after that net feed in will get a much lower price as per 2013.

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