Clean Power

Published on February 8th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Fox News Fails BIG TIME On Solar Subsidies

February 8th, 2013 by  

So, I just published a long article on the most hilarious statement from a new Fox News segment on solar power — the idea that Germany has “lots more” sun than the US.

I also tackled another key topic from the segment in that article — the reasons why solar power is so much cheaper in Germany than in the US.

And I’ve also published a piece on “10 Huge Lessons We’ve Learned From Solar Power Success In Germany.”

But one of the other key claims about US solar power that Fox & Friends spewed out of their completely confused or completely ignoble mouths was the absurd claim that US subsidies for solar haven’t had any effect and that solar compares unfavorably with fossil fuels on the matter of subsidies. Completely insane.

Luckily, I just wrote a couple posts on US coal, oil, and gas subsidies, which make solar subsidies look like pennies in comparison. For more details on those, check out:

One key finding from my research on those subsidies was this one: renewable energy subsidies have correlated with a great deal of power capacity growth.

This is really no surprise: solar costs have been falling rapidly in correlation with subsidies, and solar power growth has been tremendous — solar is the fastest-growing US energy industry (and probably the fastest growing energy industry in the world). The US solar industry now has over 100,000 jobs. Many of those are a direct result of the subsidies the US has offered American citizens.

As noted in my previous post, subsidies that stimulate the market — stimulate market demand (as solar subsidies have) — help the market to mature, and thus bring down numerous soft costs related to solar power. Germany’s stronger solar subsidies have made this happen much faster, which is why solar power is much cheaper and more abundant there, but US policies have had the same effect (just to a lesser extent). Soft costs are still much higher in the US than Germany, but those will come down as our market continues to mature.

On the solar supply side, regarding the absurd comments about solar companies that have received government loan guarantees and later gone out of business (and that being a reason to give up on one of the biggest industries of the coming century!), we’ve covered before the simple fact that a tiny percentage of those companies have gone bankrupt. Additionally, we’ve noted the obvious before: if you invest in high-risk, high-reward companies, you’re going to have some failures. To expect 100% of the companies to succeed is illogical. This is a role the US government has filled many times for many industries (including the oil and gas industry) with great success. And, again, the government is seeing great success while doing this for solar. The solar industry is young and maturing. Just as with pretty much every industry that reaches this stage, hundreds of manufacturing companies will narrow down to just a handful. But that handful will be extremely successful — and it’s common sense to want them based in your country, and to do what you can to make that happen.

Additionally, as far as jobs go, studies have found that $1 million of subsidies for solar creates more jobs than $1 million of subsidies for natural gas or coal. A University of Massachusetts study on the matter found that, for every dollar invested, almost three times as many solar jobs are created as natural gas jobs, and twice as many solar jobs are created as coal jobs:

The bottom line is: solar is better for jobs and the economy, solar is better for our health, and solar is better for the climate.

But, you know, it’s Fox, science and facts don’t really matter.

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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.

  • diablo

    There are three major issues with solar.
    1. Cost per MWh is 158.00 (solar) vs. 68.00 (natural gas)
    2. No cost effective method to store energy for use in off hours.

    3. reluctance of people to invest in new technology. Who want to put 25000.00 into a system operating at 12% efficiency, when next year it may be 14%. Solar is a good idea but the only real way to make it work is to make it cheaper than conventional fuels.

    • globi1

      1. Solar is already at $57.8 per MWh:
      2. There is no reason to store Solar since the day demand is higher than the night demand anyway. Solar simply reduces the load on the grid:
      3. The US simply needs to introduce FIT for PV, such that people will install PV systems just like in Germany. FIT for PV costs about 0.1% of the US military budget, it creates thousands of jobs, creates lots of tax revenue, reduces emissions and reduces the dependence on fossil fuels.
      4. At least the Chinese install 35 GW of PV until 2015. They certainly realized that there is merit in reducing the dependence on fuel imports:

      • diablo

        And if all of this were true, we would stop drilling for oil and gas. Reality dictates that if solar were cheaper and better we would give up all other sources of fuel. The problem is that is not cheaper or better. What is the Return on Investment on your solar panels and how much do you pay for solar power today.

        • globi1

          No, because trucks, aircraft’s and amortized gas heating systems don’t run on electricity.
          And no new power plant (fossil or renewable) can compete against an amortized power plant. Utilities won’t replace their amortized fossil power plants as long as they are working fine.

          If a new solar power plant is cheaper, than a new coal power plant return on investment starts obviously at the very first day:

        • globi

          No, because trucks, aircraft’s and amortized gas heating systems etc. don’t run on electricity.

          And no new power plant (fossil or renewable) can compete against an
          amortized power plant. Utilities won’t replace their amortized fossil
          power plants as long as they are working fine and they don’t need to pay any carbon tax.

          If a new solar power plant is cheaper, than a new coal power plant return on investment starts obviously at the very first day.

        • SteveEV

          I installed solar collectors on my house three years ago. They eliminated 90% of my electric bill. I drive an EV. That eliminated 90% of my gasoline bill. (my wife drives a hybrid) I have now saved more by trading gasoline for electrons than I paid for the solar. If I used the solar for my house (it would be more than 100% solar) and not to charge the EV it would be three more years for the savings to match my investment. I expect these solar collectors to provide me with electricity for another thirty or forty years, probably longer.

          How can anyone conclude that solar is not cheaper and better? Ten years from now grid electricity and gasoline will still be more expensive than sunlight.

  • globi1

    Since 1970 coal has received over €300 billion in subsidies in Germany, nuclear has received over €200 billion in subsidies in Germany and renewables have only received €67 but not from the taxpayer:
    (FIT are paid by the electricity consumer and not the tax payer and are therefore not really an actual subsidy. Also, the US military costs meanwhile over a 1000 times (!!!) more per year than 7.5 GW of German PV at current FIT-rates.)

  • The talking heads guarding the inhabitants of Bullsh*t Mountain from rejoining the world of the sane only serve their own warped ideology. Fox News is a propaganda machine which dumbs down America by the day through disinformation and their slanted agendas. See their anchors spewing forth feces from their mouths in my visual homage to the network on my artist’s blog at

  • JimBouton

    It should be noted that the reporter on this story is married to Rahul Advani, who works as a VP for Energy Capital Partners. A firm that focuses on natural gas investments.

  • UKGary

    I disagree with Zachary on US soft costs – particularly applying to householders are down to wildly varying administrative rules, expensive planning, grid connection and inspection requirements, and an inability to organise consistent simple technically sound federal regulations around solar array installation. None of these apply in Germany of in the UK where I was able to get a solar array installed within 2 weeks of buying my house!

    • The permitting regulations are certainly part of it — no denying that. But the difference in costs has been studied, and there are other costs that are also notably higher in the US. See #2 here:

      • UKGary

        Thanks Zachary, You are right whilst a large part is down to permitting, there are components of the total cost which are down to the less developed market resulting in much higher labour and supply chain costs as well as local sales taxes.

        It could however be argued that the less developed market is also down to obstructively difficult and expensive permitting which contributes heavily to the costs of labour and customer acquisition.

        (Lots of time writing permit applications etc and most likely far higher numbers of potential customers giving up part way through the process.)

  • Luke

    Well, I hear it’s always sunny in Philadelphia…

  • Renewable energy lowers the oil/gas companies profits in the long run…. Fox is the oil industry talking, no different than the NRA is the gun manufacturers talking…


  • Spike Lewis

    Not Cleantechnica, too!

    I don’t jump each and every time Fox News mentions something that is either outrageous or an out-right lie. Actually, I rarely jump at all, for if I did, I would spend too much time fighting them and completely loose touch with the issues I consider priorities. That’s exactly what they want, and that’s why they continue to mention outrageous things and slant the news the way they do.

    If you’re thinking that Fox viewers will now consider renewable energy (and solar in particular) a failure and a fraud, remember, these same folks blindly support our military which only happens to be the largest consumer of renewable energy in our country.

  • jburt56

    What is more conservative–an energy source that will be available for a couple of hundred years or a source that will last over a BILLION years?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Conservative simply does not mean conservative any longer.

  • Marshall Harris

    Well, it’s Fox, so expecting anything off there to be coupled with reality is probably foolhardy. But I do agree that there is too much anti-clean energy propaganda out there. There are people with big pockets who don’t want the world to know.

    • Yep… that’s the long and short of it. Doing our best to use our little pockets to educate more people. 😀

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