Clean Power

Published on April 16th, 2014 | by Giles Parkinson


Solar’s Insane Cost Drop

April 16th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Renew Economy.

We’ve seen and published many dramatic graphs about the fall in solar, such as this one tracing the fall over the past 30 years and this from Citigroup, but the following graph from investment bank Sanford Bernstein is quite stunning – not just for its simplicity but because it draws attention to the potential impact of solar to the $5 trillion global energy market.

As you can see, the cost of solar panels has come from – quite literally – off the charts less than a decade ago to a point where Bernstein says solar PV is now cheaper than oil and Asian LNG (liquefied natural gas). It does its calculations on an MMBTU basis. MMBTU is the standard unit of measure for liquid fuels, often referred to as one million British thermal units.

bernstein solar

“For these (developing Asian economies) solar is just cheap, clean, convenient, reliable energy. And since it is a technology, it will get even cheaper over time,” Bernstein writes in a newly released report.

“Fossil fuel extraction costs will keep rising. There is a massive global market for cheap energy and that market is oblivious to policy changes” in China, Japan, the EU or the US, it writes.

This has potentially massive impacts for the oil, gas and LNG markets, and therefor the massive investments in the LNG plants in Queensland, Australia, where tens of billions of dollars have been invested by Australian and international energy majors on the assumption that the demand, and the price, of LNG will rise ever upwards.

bernstein energy supplyAs Bernstein notes in its report, the share of solar PV in the global energy market is currently so small (see graph to the right) that “the idea that oil and gas is the “loser” in this formulation is laughable … in 2014.”

But that’s not the case a decade hence. Solar is already eating away at the margins of oil and gas demand. Bernstein says the adoption of solar in off-grid areas in developing markets means less kerosene and diesel demand. The adoption of solar in the Middle East means less oil demand. The adoption of solar in China and developed Asia means less LNG demand. And distributed solar in the US, Europe and Australia means less natural gas demand.

And then Bernstein drops this bombshell – while solar has a fractional share of the market now,  within one decade, solar PV (plus battery storage) may have such a share of the market that it becomes a trigger for energy price deflation, with huge consequences for the massive fossil fuel industry that relies on continued growth.

“The behavior from here seems clear: the solar industry will expand. Retaliatory steps from distribution utilities will increase the market for cost-effective battery storage. This becomes – initially – a secondary market for battery technologies being developed for the auto sector. A failed battery technology in the auto sector (too hot, too heavy, too rigid a form factor) might well be perfect for the home energy storage market…. with an addressable end market of 2 billion backyards.

“And for some years, that will be the extent of the effect. We have previously calculated how large the solar sector would need to be in order to become a material share of incremental energy supply each year and therefore begin to displace high-cost oil and gas supply and start to depress prices.

“We estimate that the solar industry would need to be an order of magnitude larger than it is today to have this kind of impact. At the point where solar is displacing a material share of incremental oil and gas supply, global energy deflation would become inevitable: technology (with a falling cost structure) would be driving prices in the energy space. But even on an aggressive view, this could take the better part of a decade.”

But, the Bernstein analysts say, the risks are that they are being too conservative. The big oil and gas producers, and the investors that control the flow of capital, may not wait until energy prices do actually deflate, they will likely change their behaviour well before than in anticipation that it will happen.

“If the downward sloping forward curve is ever accepted as permanent, rational behavior from energy producers will guarantee it is so. Sitting on oil and gas reserves for the benefit of generations yet to come ceases to be a rational strategy if that reserve represents a depreciating rather than an appreciating asset.”

This, Bernstein says, is the hidden flaw with the idea that solar is “too small to matter”. Ultimately, it says, what may kill the  energy market for equity investors is not the fact that renewable technology and battery storage will turn into behemoths, but the realisation of that future as inevitable.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

  • harisA

    With all due respect, you are comparing apples with oranges. Solar panels generate kWh, where Btu’s have to be converted to kWh. Solar Btu’s are free.

  • StefanoR99

    Yeah saw that, it’s fantastic. Was thinking about current stock, apartment buildings, office blocks etc. The sort of building that has 100+ year service life. Getting all those onto 100% solar would be very very cool.

  • mlebauer

    Good analysis. Solar is indeed getting cheaper and if it can compete with gas/oil/coal as a solution (that is, with backup storage), it will put pressure on those industries.

    However, many people make a comparison between solar/wind cost reduction trends and high tech. They are not the same. You need to break down the IP/commodity cost ratio in the equipment (IP=intellectual property, that is R&D cost). IP costs fall rapidly over time, as they are mostly upfront costs not tied to units produced. Commodity prices are like oil/gas/coal, they vary with availability but generally rise over time.

    The commodity content of solar and wind systems is far higher than in high tech businesses like computers and cell phones. Just one look at the size of the equipment involved tells you that.

    Thus, solar and wind equipment will reach a point where they plateau as the IP costs are depreciated. If and how much that is below oil/gas/coal on a per BTU basis, with the backup storage costs included, will determine how competitive they will be.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Gas plants are (relatively) cheap. It’s their fuel cost that drives their electricity prices. They can sit idle for hours and still be fine. In fact, the CF for NG plants is already around 25%.

      If we leave climate change out of the picture (which utility companies seem to do) then wind and solar will push NG off the grid when they are available. They won’t need storage until wind and solar become very significant players in our supply system. Until they exceed our existing NG and storage capacity.

      “Always on” thermal plants are in deep trouble. Having no fuel costs, wind and solar can always undercut them. Wind has been eating away at their off-peak returns. Solar is starting to take away their profitable midday market. That makes it necessary for them to charge even more during the pre-/post-solar hours in order to stay in business. Natural gas and storage will undercut them in those hours.

    • mds

      “Thus, solar and wind equipment will reach a point where they plateau as the IP costs are depreciated. If and how much that is below oil/gas/coal on a per BTU basis, with the backup storage costs included, will determine how competitive they will be.”
      Sure, but they are already competing in some areas and their costs are still dropping. Solar in particular is not near the bottom. There are a number of new cost reducing improvements on the way to the market and still be worked on in the lab. Fossil fuels are not going to get any cheaper for more than a short time period. In general they will continue to go up. Fossil fuels are in trouble from a cost competitive view point.

    • eveee

      Its all well and good to talk of some mythical plateau. Where is it? Predict it. In the real world, measurements don’t make discontinuous changes. Solar growth is tremendous. Either complain that its too small or tell us its saturated. If its too small, it sure is not going to saturate anytime soon. Renewables are gaining market share and lowering costs through volume. Those are all things that increase market share and reduce costs. Meanwhile FF are increasing in cost. The future? Renewables.

  • Will E

    there is no discussion needed.
    next year start up of Solar Panel system for free.
    every one gets Solar System for free and the system will be paid by the energy produced by the systems.
    the same way utilities do business.
    You do not pay for the production plant, but you pay for the energy produced and used.
    next year same with solar.
    you do not pay for the system on your roof, you pay for the energy used and make a profit on what is sold.
    next year start up in EU.

    • Robert Helbing

      The EU is way, way ahead of us. Spain has spent over $50 billion, and Germany over $200 billion.
      The effort has nearly bankrupted them. They’ve both given up the effort. Germany is now building new coal plants instead.

      • A Real Libertarian
        • Robert Helbing

          Your information is out of date. To quote Anne-Sophie Corbeau of the International Energy Agency “we have…a golden age of coal in Germany.”



          Sorry, I’ll the the word of the Economist over that of an Australian blogger.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Your information is out of date.”

            Your info:
            Jan 18th, 2014
            Jan 5th, 2013

            My info:
            March 11, 2013
            March 26, 2014
            December 24, 2013
            March 26, 2014

            Can you see the problem here?

            “Sorry, I’ll the the word of the Economist over that of an Australian blogger.”

            This is why you people fail.

            Because you prefer Very Serious People with Very Serious Opinions rather then Stupid Bloggers with Stupid Facts.

          • Robert Helbing

            Bloggers cater to a slice of fans. The Economist publishes for a global audience, filled with millions ready to pounce on errors. I’ll put my money on the fact checkers the Economist uses over your dude every day of the week.
            I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this point.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “We’ll just have to agree to disagree”

            Translated –

            “I showed up here with a bunch of bad information and had a few shovelfuls of facts thrown my way. Rather than admit that I might be wrong I’ll toss out a quick butt-cover and sneak off.”

            Come on, Robert, man up. Lay out what you believe to be true and let’s see if our facts differ. If you want we’ll give you sources for the facts we haven’t already linked. If you think we’ve got bad facts then bring better sources.

            Don’t let the Bobs down.

          • Robert Helbing

            Economist = Bad Information?
            Aussie Blogger = Good Information?

            How big is your Aussie’s fact checking department? How many times has he had to defend himself in the most vicious libel courts in the world (London, if you’re asking?) I’ll go with “zero”. He can invent whatever he wants, and never pay a price. The Economist can’t afford to be so blase’.

            Not that your blogger is lying. But he’s cherry-picking. He comes to the table with a strong point of view, and looks for sources that confirm it.

            For what it’s worth, the Economist is on record as saying “global warming = bad; coal = bad.” Which makes their facts that much more credible. It goes against their preferred narrative, but they have the integrity to publish it anyway.

          • Bob_Wallace

            In what way is Giles cherry-picking?

            If you’re making that charge then you must have the facts to back it up or you’re just blowing smoke.

            Bring some facts, Robert.

          • Robert Helbing

            The facts are in the research done by the Economist for their articles. I trust their credibility more than I trust Giles. You may differ; your choice.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s take a look at two graphs. First the Economist’s graph that they use to make their “golden age” statement.

            See that? Five years of data with 2012 being a slight bit higher than the other four.

            Now let’s look at another graph of the EU’s coal use.

            See that one? Coal use has fallen from 1990 onward. There’s a small downturn starting in 2008 (remember when the Great Recession started?). Most people would likely say that coal has dropped quite a bit from 1990 (even more from 1985) and has sort of stalled out.

            Now, what’s your take? Did the Economist perhaps cherry-pick data and make much out of nothing by showing only the last five years and not acknowledging the recession?

          • Bob_Wallace

            I had a few minutes to spend with the first article you link.

            In it the Economist talks about the new coal plants being built in Germany. They are correct, Germany is building 11.3 GW of new coal plants. They started those plants prior to Fukushima and the decision to close their own nuclear plants. And also before they started installing renewables in large numbers.

            What the Economist fails to report is that while 11.3 GW of new coal plants are being built 18.5 GW of older, inefficient coal plants will be closed by 2020. Germany will have less coal burning capacity once this round of replacement is finished. And more recent news is that 3 GW of the 11.3 GW may not be needed and may not be built which would mean a greater than 50% decrease in capacity.

            Now, how has Germany been doing overall in terms of cleaning up its grid? Time for another picture.

            Even with giving up a lot of nuclear, Germany has managed to further cut its use of fossil fuels. When one considers how much that they had already cut coal use (50% per capita since 1984) that is nothing to make one ashamed.

          • eveee

            Why don’t you read your precious Economist and figure out why you are wrong because you misinterpreted what it said.

            Example. You claimed businesses are leaving Germany because of high electric rates. This is the source of that myth.

            “Faced with such uncertainties, businesses are doing what you would expect: going elsewhere. Jesse Scott, the head of environment policy at EURELECTRIC, an association of electricity producers, asked European energy utilities which also have an international portfolio where they were expecting to invest over the next few years; 85% replied “outside Europe”.

            Notice. This is the unsupported opinion of an association of electricity producers, not consumers. In fact, what is happening is that producers, not consumers, are complaining because German wholesale prices are so low. The wholesale prices are low because of conservation and ever falling renewable prices. Read your own references. In fact, there is no swarm of electric consumers leaving Germany. And no one is going bankrupt in Germany except the utilities that did not plan for conservation and renewables and instead invested in FF. Even the Economist says there are only blips up and down in coal use and the trend is down.

          • Hans

            Argument from authority fallacy

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look at the graph, Robert. When was the “golden age of coal in Germany”?

            Back at peak use in mid 1980s when use was twice as much as now would be my guess. I have no idea what Anne-Sophie considers golden. I’d say that we’re more into coal’s silver years. Coal is aging out.

            As Deutsche Bank said a couple years ago “Coal is a dead man walking”.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Now, I’m not sure why you posted that second article. The minister in charge of energy has a tough job. End of story.

            What are we supposed to get from that? That German retail electricity prices are high and that German industry pays rates lower than the EU27 average?

            True enough. Industry has a sweet deal. They are benefiting from the significant decrease in the wholesale price of electricity created by renewable energy and at the same time don’t have to contribute to the investment in renewables.

            (Picture time. The fall of electricity prices in Germany.)

            Now, can something be done to ease the retail price of electricity? Can’t remove the FiT contribution. That’s about 5.3 euro cents. But there’s another 14.5 cents of general taxes that are included in the retail price of electricity. If the government felt retail price too high they could roll some of those general fund/VAT taxes back.

            BTW, did you realize that the average US monthly electric bill is $110. And the average German monthly electric bill is $125? A whopping $15 more per month.

        • oldman

          that is so old

      • patb2009

        Germany is also retiring coal plants.

  • JamesWimberley

    To get back to the post’s actual theme, I agree that market expectations are the issue for fossil fuel corporations, not current solar penetration. Oil majors are already being foreced to cut back on capital spending to maintain their share prices. Their controlled output is shrinking. The decline has started. Bernstein has rich clients; so do Citi, Deutsche, USB and Goldman Sachs, who are all beginning to tell them the same thing. Once rich people start divesting, the share prices will drop even more, leading to further cuts in capex. A death spiral. Harvard had better get ahead of the pack.

  • Robert Helbing

    Another element missing from these calculations; the cost of the land that must be dedicated for solar installations. Solar has the worst energy density of any of the energy sources listed; solar plants have huge physical footprints. And, of course, the most energy-demanding bits of the globe are those with the greatest population densities, which means they are the ones where land is dearest. How many acres of panels would it take to power Manhattan, for example? Where will you find that much unused land nearby?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Let me answer your question on a grander scale. (Power gets shipped to Manhattan from outside the city already.) What if we got 100% of the electricity we use in these 50 states from solar?

      In 2012 the US generated/used 4,054,485,000,00 kWh of electricity. That’s 11,108,178,082 kWh/Day.

      Using a capacity factor of 19% it would take 58,464,095,169 kW panels, 58,464,095,169,430 Watts of panels to produce this much electricity per day.

      A 17.4% efficient solar panel produces 16.20 Watts per sq. ft., so 3,608,894,763,545 sq. ft.

      43,560 square feet in acre, so 82,848,824 acres of solar panels.

      640 Acres in a square mile, so 129,451 square miles.

      There are 2,959,064 square miles of land in the lower 48 states.

      It would take 4.37% of the Lower 48 land to produce 100% of the electricity used by all 50 states.

      This does not allow for transmission and storage loss. Nor for the space between rows of panels. Of course no one is talking about 100% solar.

      Let’s say we get 30% of our electricity from solar. 40% from wind, 10% from hydro and the rest from assorted renewable sources such as tidal, geothermal and waste.

      Now we’d need ~40,000 square miles.

      According to the EPA, there are just under half a million contaminated properties around the country, including tens of thousands of Superfund sites and brownfields. That amounts to 15 million acres of land. 23,400 square miles. Over half of what we would need.

      Now add in the existing rooftops and parking lots. Use some area over highways and train tracks. The median strips of highways.

      We have far more space than we would ever need. And I did that with 17.4% efficient panels. We just saw a piece about 24% efficient panels. That would cut space by 38%.

      We got no problem, bunky….

      • Bob_Wallace

        The energy density thing is a bogus issue thrown up by coal and nuclear in an attempt to hang on as long as they can.

        Energy density is not the important metric. The important metric is cost per kWh (including external costs). Dispatch-ability and time of delivery are the next most important metrics.

        • Robert Helbing

          But cost per kWh includes the cost of the land. It’s a key element in “the important metric.” In urban areas, it will probably be THE key element.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Depends. Building roofs are already there, as are parking lots.

            If a business puts solar on their building or over their parking lot they are turning a non-performing asset into a profit center.

            Installing on a brownfield means that cleanup can be less, resulting in less money spent on cleanup.

          • Robert Helbing

            Building roofs are there. But they aren’t engineered for the dead load nor wired for the electrical load.
            Parking lots don’t need the engineering. But they need the wiring, and that’s trickier than roofs because the lines have to be buried or exposed; there’s no building to put them inside. And parking lots have shade issues. Unless the lot is on the south side of the building (and there’s no building further south) you won’t readily get line-of-sight to the sun on a consistent basis.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Wonder how all those solar arrays are getting installed on roofs?

            Are they racking them with anti-gravity materials?

            Wiring a building for solar requires installing conduit and pulling wire.
            Wiring a parking lot requires cutting a slit trench, dropping in the conduit/wire, and closing the puppy back up. A few parking lots might be shaded by a building on the south. Odds are that 3/4ths aren’t.

            Come on Robert. Solar is here. Solar is working. Solar is turning into one of our cheapest sources of electricity.

          • Robert Helbing

            Then why are 99.99% of warehouse roofs missing solar panels? Why are 99.99% of parking lots missing the same?
            If the economics were a slam dunk, it’d take off like crazy. Instead, solar is 0.3% of our energy. And that’s only with a 30% Federal subsidy. Without the subsidy, it’d be even tinier.

            Cheap solar is a good thing. Let’s hope we get it someday.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Why, a year after Apple introduced the Apple II, did fewer than 1% of all people own a personal computer?

            Robert, look at what has happened to the price of solar and how installations are proceeding.

          • patb2009

            give it some time.

          • RobS

            “If the economics were a slam dunk, it’d take off like crazy”

            Solar generation in the US has risen 113.8% between 2012 and 2013, define crazy because no other technology has seen even a tenth of that growth rate except wind which saw a 19.1% increase.

          • eveee
          • patb2009

            electricians can solve the problem

          • eveee

            That means parking lot lights cannot be wired. And since the wiring is already there for lights, how is it that solar cells could not be on top of the lights. By trying not to find solutions, y ou miss all the ones that are there. Try opening your eyes and mind a. Little. Then you might see possibilities.

          • eveee

            Cost of rooftop solar includes installation. It’s booming growth. Rooftop installation is not a problem for the huge number of homes going solar and paying less on their bills. The argument falls flat.

          • Hans

            I wonder why in Germany we have all this PV on roofs and they don’t cave in. Maybe we in Germany have better roofs.

          • Robert Helbing

            They’re better than what we have in Los Angeles. It doesn’t snow here. So if roofs are strong enough to hold their own weight, they meet local codes.

            Adding a bunch of glass, silicon and electronics might do in one of our rooftops. Hence the need for engineering & structural.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Robert, do you have any data on the percentage of LA roofs that need structural work prior to installing solar?

          • Robert Helbing

            Any work that adds more than 400 pounds of weight to a roof in Southern California typically requires structural calculations. This is earthquake country, remember.

            So if you’re putting more than 8 panels up, I’d say you’re condemned to, at a minimum, hiring a structural engineer to perform the calculations. If you come up short (and our roofs are pretty minimal, so that’s likely) now you’re facing the expense of reinforcement.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Robert, do you have any data on the percentage of LA roofs that need structural work prior to installing solar?

          • patb2009

            solar uses dead land, rooftops, parking lots, grass lawns.

      • Robert Helbing

        Try getting permits to build on a contaminated site.
        Try getting a workforce to build on a contaminated site.
        Try getting insurance or financing to build on a contaminated site.
        There’s are reason no one is building anything there. It’s completely impractical.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “Hanwha Q CELLS, a vertically integrated solar manufacturer and developer, has just completed a 10.8-megawatt solar PV project on a Superfund site in Indianapolis under EPA control. The Maywood Superfund project is the biggest on any EPA Superfund or brownfield site in the country.

          Since the EPA started the brownfields redevelopment program four years ago, a handful of projects in the 200-kilowatt to 2-megawatt range have been developed. The 10.8-megawatt Maywood project is the biggest so far.”

          • Robert Helbing

            Precisely. The EPA has made development in these areas so difficult that the only organization that can get it done is…you guessed it; the EPA. Ordinary developers can’t possibly pull it off.
            How good is the EPA at this? How many approvals do you need inside their organization before you can start? What do you tell your workforce about working life at a toxic waste site? How do you secure liability insurance, workers’ compensation coverage, etc? You can’t get secured financing; no bank will accept polluted land as collateral.
            It’s easy to say “we should do this.” But nothing about it is actually easy to do.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Robert – I just gave you sites which have installed solar on brownfield.
            Did the developers have to work with the EPA?

            Well, duh….

            Hanwha Q CELLS, a vertically integrated solar manufacturer and developer who has just completed a 10.8-megawatt solar PV project on a Superfund, is not a branch of the EPA.

        • eveee
      • StefanoR99

        Would love to know the rooftop acreage thats suitable for rooftop PV installation.

        Imagine its quite a difficult sum because of the variations and shape of rooftop design.

        Its nice to think that we might get quite close to the point where every building becomes its own power supply. Think higher density buildings such as apartment blocks will still need outside supply though. Unless PV efficiency increases quite a bit.

    • sault

      “the cost of the land that must be dedicated for solar installations. Solar has the worst energy density of any of the energy sources listed”

      Woah, totally wrong.

      Hoover dam key stats:

      Power rating: 2080MW

      Annual Generation: 4.2 x 10^9 kWh

      Lake Mead Surface area: 247 mi^2 or 640 km^2

      Nellis solar power plant key stats:

      Power rating: 14MW

      Annual Generation: 3.2 x 10^7 kWh

      Area: 0.6 km2

      So, Lake Mead covers 1067 times more surface area than the Nellis solar plant but Hoover Dam only generates 131 times as much energy. If you had solar panels covering the desert instead of Lake Mead, they would generate a little more than 8 times as much energy. The Nellis solar power plant is also more spread-out than a more recent solar power plant and solar panels are a little more efficient now than they were in 2007, so solar power is probably an order of magnitude more energy dense than hydropower and getting better all the time.
      As for other energy sources, how much land is destroyed through mountaintop removal coal mining, open-pit mining, tar sands extraction, oil and gas pipelines, oil spills, coal transport and holding yards, coal waste ponds, natural gas fracking fields and a whole host of other land uses?

      • Robert Helbing

        Lake Powell does far more than provide power. Hoover Dam’s primary purpose was to provide water to Southern California. The electricity is just a bonus.

        • patb2009

          doesn’t mean the figures are wrong, you just don’t like the answer

    • JamesWimberley

      The fill factor for typical solar farms is 14% (source: MacKay). So 86% of the land area is available for other uses, Of course, the types of agriculture and grazing you can carry out is constrained, but in hot countries the shade is actually useful to plants and animals. MacKay’s scenarios point to a land area constraint on solar for Britain – one of only four countries at high latitudes with large, dense populations. (The others are Germany, Korea and Japan.) Most of the world’s population lives at much sunnier latitudes or at much lower densities, and often both like Brazil. For the very high renewables scenarios at which these worries become relevant, we can surely count on a 50% increase in overall efficiency, meaning a one-third reduction in required panel areas.

      • Bob_Wallace

        France has a large solar farm and grazes sheep under the panels. They don’t use concrete ballast.

        That would make the fill factor even lower.

        • mlebauer

          I’m sure the grass grows strong and tall shaded under solar panels.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You know, it actually does under mine. The grass under my panels is much lusher than in the space between them. It stays green much longer into the summer.

          • eveee

            Grass grows in the shade. It even grows on cloudy days. Reflected light. Get it?

      • mlebauer

        And solar is a great fit for low population density low latitude countries like Saudi Arabia, with large desert areas and a lot of sun. It makes little sense for a temperate high latitude country like Germany.

        Incidentally, the major benefit for the Saudis is to allow them to export more of their oil production.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “(Solar) makes little sense for a temperate high latitude country like Germany.”

          Which is disproven by the fact that solar is working great for Germany.

          • mlebauer

            Now I get to laugh. The costs are out of sight for consumer and industry and German Industry is threatening to leave over the high cost of energy since it’s making them uncompetitive. Utilities can’t operate economically. They’re moving back into coal to cover base-load needs since they’re simultaneously decommisioning nuclear plants. And other European countries are grumbling that the huge power spikes and drops from Germany are disrupting their grids.

            The biggest problem is that in temperate countries there are big differences between peak generation and average, due to weather. In low latitude arid countries like Saudi Arabia, the solar power generating capacity is far more regular and predictable.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, but you’ve been mislead by fossil fuel industry BS.

            Wholesale electricity prices in Germany are greatly lower. (Graph below.)

            The price of industrial electricity in Germany has been falling since 2009 and are below the EU27 average.


            The claim has been made that German industry has been leaving, is threatening to leave but exactly zero companies either leaving or threatening to leave have been identified.

            One company has increased production in the US due to the lower price of natural gas. Not the cost of electricity.

            The high cost of retail electricity is due to taxes, mostly taxes that have nothing to do with energy. BTW, the average monthly bill for German householders is $125 and in the US $110. A whopping $15 per month extra.

            The problem that Poland and a couple other countries have been having has nothing to do with German renewable energy. Power purchases from western Europe flow through the German grid and that’s what has been causing disruptions.


            There has been a small increase in coal use in Germany. That increase will be more than wiped out as Germany’s new, more efficient plants come on line and the old ones close.

            I’ll show you what is going to happen to coal in Germany this year. (Second graph.)

            Now, go look in your mirror and laugh at yourself for having been played for a sucker by the coal industry.

          • mlebauer

            No time for zealots citing green energy blogs ( The problems with the Energiewende program are well documented in numerous sources. For example:



            Neither are fossil industry shills. In Germany they say “Der Spiegel ist rot” (Der Spiegel is red) because it’s said to be loosely aligned with the SPD, Germany’s socialist left of center party, whose party color is red. The Economist supported Obama and still has an independent streak in investigative journalism.

          • A Real Libertarian

            The European Commission’s official website for statistics is a “green energy blog”?

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Kocks probably told him it is.

          • mlebauer

            it’s Kochs. Something else on your mind?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Good, you caught on.

            Your information is all F-ed up.

          • A Real Libertarian

            pun [puhn]

            1. the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.


          • mlebauer

            I got it. Again, read carefully before making unfounded assumptions.

          • A Real Libertarian

            unfounded [uhn-foun-did]

            1. without foundation; not based on fact, realistic considerations, or the like: unfounded suspicions.

          • mlebauer

   isn’t a European Commission official website. The linked page even says it’s a blog. Read carefully before responding.

            And the European commission link goes to industrial customer prices. First, they have risen significantly since over the timeframe shown. Second, many sources, including those I linked, state that consumers are subsidizing industry, but even so industry is feeling a squeeze of higher energy costs.

            Plus, the whole European approach to energy is empowering Vladimir Putin in his revanchist quest in Ukraine (with implicit threats to NATO). That security threat, along with the high costs, is causing them to re-evaluate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            In 2005 EU27 industrial electricity prices were 0.0672 euro cents per kWh. They have been rising since and are now at 0.0942 cents.

            In 2005 German industrial electricity prices were 0.0782 cents. They rose to 0.0975 cents in 2009 and then started falling as renewables were added to the grid.

            German industrial electricity prices are now 0.086 cents per kWh. That is lower than the EU27 average.

            0.086 < 0.0942


            "Plus, the whole European approach to energy is empowering Vladimir Putin in his revanchist quest in Ukraine (with implicit threats to NATO)."

            Horse poop. Pure horse poop.

            Europe is installing wind and solar. Their EV purchases are rising. Germany is installing supercritical coal plants in order to remove themselves from Putin's gas pipe. Europe is lessening their reliance on Russia.

            Look, you may be able to get away with posting garbage on other sites, but some of us here know how to do fact checking.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oh, please. Don’t try to shove that garbage onto this site.

            The German energy minister has a tough job. So what?

            German retail customers pay 5.3 cents to bring renewables to the grid. Industry enjoys cheaper electricity prices and doesn’t have to pay zip toward renewables. German retail customers also pay 8.5 cents per kWh for taxes that go into the general fund.

            In the US we pay most of our federal taxes via income tax. Germany pay some of their along with their utility bills.

            European countries have long put some of their taxes on top of electricity and vehicle fuel as a way to encourage efficiency and conservation. Gasoline in Norway is more than $10/gallon and Norway is an oil producing/exporting country.

            Let me show you one more time what has happened to the wholesale price of electricity in Germany.

            Then how about you showing us some ability on your part to take on new facts and learn from them?

          • mlebauer

            I’ll get my information from real news sources, thank you very much. Not shoving anything on you, you’re going to believe in your new age religion regardless of what I or anyone else here says, and you’ll seek data and sources to justify it. But, you will act like the old time evangelist, spreading the gospel.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Head back over to Fox. They’ll tell you the lies you want to hear.

          • mlebauer

            Showing your partisan stripes again, making assumptions about others’ information sources. You know nothing about my politics. Only that I don’t go for that new-time religion of yours.

            I’m not going to throw off the old gods only to embrace the new. You’re an warmist evangelical zealot, spreading your gospel. Fine by me, I know who you are and who I am. I’m not going to change your mind.

            Mine is open, I was once a global warming believer and strong environmentalist. But further investigation and new facts changed my mind. Others have traveled that path, see Bjorn Lomberg. Once they do, they are excommunicated by inquisitors of the faith such as yourself.

            I’m still an environmentalist, albeit mainly a conservationist. But I appreciate a balance between environmental and economic development that allows improvement in the human condition and realization of human aspirations. And I have become skeptical of the inflamed claims of global warmists, largely because of people like you.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “But I appreciate a balance between environmental and economic development that allows improvement in the human condition and realization of human aspirations.”

            I despise people like you because you inevitably push destroying the environment for the economic benefits of the few, while the many suffer and die.

          • mlebauer

            Spoken like a true zealot. And misanthrope, I might add.

            I don’t despise people like you, just pity.

          • A Real Libertarian

            I’m a misanthropic zealot because I don’t fall for your lies?

            I edited my previous post for clarity.

          • Doug Cutler

            “I was once a global warming believer and strong environmentalist. But further investigation and new facts changed my mind. Others have traveled that path, see Bjorn Lomberg. Once they do, they are excommunicated by inquisitors of the faith such as yourself.”

            Bjorn Lomberg is not a climate scientist. His training is in political science. When you say he was “excommunicated” it would not be from the community of climate science since he never belonged in the first place.

            We see a lot of this, non-climate science experts trying to second guess climate science: Burt Rutan (aviation), Roger Pielke (political science), John Coleman (meteorology). Highly specialized expertise is a hallmark of the age and we tend to respect it in all other areas. Recently, my sight in one eye was saved by an experienced eye surgeon, not the optometrist, not even my highly trained ophthalmologist. So now when peer-reviewed climate scientists and acknowledged leaders in their field are telling us unpleasant things we turn to loosely related expertise instead?

            But lets not waste too much breath on AGW. As you may have noticed the ground is shifting and the global warming debate is increasingly moot, increasingly pushed aside as yesterday’s argument. The new question: just how fast are renewables going to take over, anyway?

            A good example of this shift in tone is this recent NY Times article by Paul Krugman called “Salvation Gets Cheap”:

            And since you like credible sources, how about Deutsche Bank identifying the new and fast growing trend for unsubsidized solar PV:

            Now there’s a dragon newly hatched, just testing its wings and with a voracious appetite for energy market share.

          • mlebauer

            As to Lomberg, I never said he is a climate scientist. Rather, that he traveled the same road as I, of accepting the AGW theory and advocating unlimited carbon reduction, to seeing the issue as more complex, with benefits as well as costs to warming, and that there are substantial global issues that could be addressed at far lower cost.

            As to the cost of PV, I have nothing against any form of energy per se. If solar or anything else is the best and most cost effective option for any particular application, users should be free to choose what best suits their needs.

            Krugman, incidentally, isn’t exactly a non-partisan authority on any particular subject, even his profession of economics. He has contradicted his own economics works in his NYT advocacy columns.

            My skepticism toward climate scientists as a class derives from that profession’s heavily politicized approach. Advocacy and unreliable modeling has made it hard for the layman to trust the professed experts.

          • Bob_Wallace

            ” that profession’s heavily politicized approach”


            “Advocacy and unreliable modeling has made climate science hard for the layman to trust the professed experts.”

            No, what has interfered with the public understanding and accepting what climate scientists have discovered is the high intensity disinformation program from people like you.

          • mlebauer

            Your style of evangelism is guaranteed not to win many converts. Keep it up, you’re doing a good job hurting your cause.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The knuckleheads that belong to the right-wing “27%” are not winnable.
            There are a small number of people who simply don’t understand how science works. They put their beliefs before the evidence that stares them full in the face. They vote against their own self interests because they let the leaders of their political team tell them what to believe, even if it’s obviously ridiculous.

            No sense in playing softball with them. Call them the idiots they are and let’s get on with what needs to be done.

          • mlebauer

            Do you? Because you read green blogs?

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, we’ve reached the end of this discussion.

            This site is not a place for debating climate change. If that is something you wish to discuss find another place.

            No more warnings.

          • mlebauer

            Your style of hostile evangelism won’t win many converts. Keep it up, you’re hurting your cause.

          • Doug Cutler

            Just getting up to speed a little with Lomberg. He accepts AGW so its a rather unfair of me to try and lump him in with likes of Weather Channel’s Coleman. Even within the scientific consensus on AGW there is some range of disagreement on speed of onset. In this regard Lomberg’s dangerometer is still set pretty low. Even James Lovelock has backed off from his earlier dire warnings – though we need to bear in mind the man is now 92 and not exactly recently peer-reviewed. Some argue Lovelock has simply entered the mainstream of climate science forecasting. I hope the mainstream is right and that we still have time to turn things around.

            Otherwise, I don’t see why recent developments in renewables don’t dovetail nicely with Lomberg’s “human progress” analysis. For example, have you checked out trends in micro solar for third world? Last half of this TED Talk in particular:

            So Lomberg exhibits a laudable concern for the welfare of global humanity. Early on he argued money directed at climate change mitigation might be better spent on addressing malaria, for example. We might allow this argument made more sense back in 2002 when the manufactured cost of solar PV was $5/watt but as you know solar costs are in free fall, currently well below a $1/watt and likely headed as low as 25c/watt by end of decade. The equation has changed. Now its more like we just need people to out of the way. Even Al Gore is feeling decidedly upbeat these days calling the solar wave unstoppable.

            As for Krugman, I’m not necessarily endorsing any of his positions for this particular argument. I was just using his article as an example of a shift in mainstream conversation towards the new momentum of renewables. But on the point, Krugman cites a global GDP drag of a mere .06% for transitioning off FF (IPCC estimates). Meanwhile, Lomberg is still posting numbers like 11% annual GDP drag on his website. Seems maybe a little out of date. If I may be a little factitious I wonder if he’s worried about obsoleting the data in his as yet unsold books. But seriously, if you can clarify that would be appreciated.

            With cost of wind and solar continuing to fall and more affordable EVs on the near horizon we should soon see new analysis that – even without external costs of FF – its actually costing the global economy NOT to shift to renewables. Since Lomberg believes we ultimately need to act on GW that should please him no end.

            BTW, I can relate to some of Lomberg’s other optimism. Depsite what we hear in the news, large scale human conflict is trending down over time and human culture is slowly getting more civilized – at least on paper. He’s not the only academic making that case. Of course, runaway global warming would change all that. But it may well be all the material science and electrical/mechanical engineering geeks have saved our behinds by driving down cost of wind and solar. We’ll have to put up a monument to them somewhere when this is all over.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There is some range of opinion as to how far we are from the “immense climate change” point of no return. People like Lomberg are on the “plenty of time left” side of the distribution and you can find others on the “it may be too late already” side.

            With climate change the results of getting it wrong are so severe that it would be foolish to take a Lomberg ‘go slow’ approach or even calculate the median and use that as our target speed. We need to err toward the ‘hair on fire’ side of the distribution. Belt and suspenders.

            There’s no appreciable cost for converting off fossil fuels earlier than we really need to. (Except to the fossil fuel industry.)

            We end up with cheaper electricity as well as cleaner air and water.

          • Doug Cutler

            Exactly. Invoke the cautionary principal with extreme prejudice. Fortunately, its also looking more and more like an economic no-brainer.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sticking with the US. Take a look at the age of our coal and nuclear plants in the graph below.

            Coal plants have an average lifespan of about 40 years. Our nuclear plants were engineered for a 40 year lifespan. Some, not all, will be refurbished and used for (hopefully) an other 20.

            Basically, we have to replace almost all of our coal and nuclear plants over the next 20-30 years. That simply has to happen. That is money we are going to spend.

            Now, if we replace with wind and solar we get significantly cheaper electricity for our bucks. Why would we spend for electricity that would cost us upwards of 15c/kWh when we can, for the same or less amount of money, get 5c/kWh electricity?

          • Doug Cutler

            Is this discussion getting overloaded? I just had a long reply to miebauer disappear.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That may be what’s happening. I see nothing from you between “Exactly. Invoke the cautionary principal” about 40 minutes ago and this one.

            We’re up over 170 posts and Disqus seems to get strange with lots of comments.

            I’ve had posts show up hours after I made them. If anyone else is having problems let me know and I’ll close this one down. No doubt there will be other opportunities. ;o)

          • mlebauer

            Exactly the points I tried to make, but got shouted down by the extremists (as does Lomberg) for dissenting from the orthodoxy.

            Lomberg and I recognize warming as a phenomenon, but dispute the more dire predictions that have come to be recognized as hyperbolic and designed for a political, as opposed to scientific, response. Sometimes that has fed crony capitalists seeking to promote technologies that improved their bottom lines at the expense of consumers.

            An example is the CFL light bulb. Really an underdeveloped technology inferior to old fashioned incandescents, many people invested in converting their house (like me) only to find out how bad they were. Yet, the lighting companies pushed it as they could get $10 / bulb vs $1 for the old bulbs. There’s a lot of money in the green game, it’s not just the fossil fuel businesses that use influence to increase their profits.

            You see the same thing in appliances. Both lighting and appliances aren’t that big a consumer of power in the house, it’s HVAC and water heating that are the big opportunities. That said, the new LEDs are much better and finally making a shift from incandescents worthwhile.

            One big difference in the geo-politics of energy technologies is that PVs, wind, and other new technology heavy sources are far less prone to revanchist rentier authoritarianism of the Saudi-Venezuelan-Vlad Putin’s Russian variety. Technology is not dependent on natural resource endowments to the same degree, and needs constant intellectual nurturing to stay competitive. That is how PV is becoming cost competitive, those that sit on their laurels become like Nokia or Blackberry. Cronyist authoritarians like Putin don’t thrive in such environments.

            The same, however, could be said about fracking based fossil fuel extraction. While they still depend on natural resource endowments, the extraction process is capital heavy and, since fracked wells have a much faster production fall-off rate than traditional wells, fracking activity is necessary.

            The race is on to see what will win the future. But with both trends weakening the rentier extraction model, I’m optimistic about both geopolitics long term and positive trends in cleaner energy. We just need to let the market work, and calm the extremists too amply represented on this site (see, for example, Bob Wallace) that would resort to social engineering. To my mind, that will hurt the development model and strengthen the rentiers who thrive of coercive government manipulation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “An example is the CFL light bulb. Really an underdeveloped technology inferior to old fashioned incandescents”


            ” Yet, the lighting companies pushed it as they could get $10 / bulb vs $1 for the old bulbs.”

            More bull. You can purchase CFLs for under $1.

            Let’s social engineer away. Increase subsidies for EVs in order to bring their prices down faster. Put a tax on carbon to drive the transition to renewable energy faster.

            Anyone who wants to slow the movement away from fossil fuels is serving the fossil fuel industry and playing Russian roulette with humankind.

          • mlebauer

            You really are tiresome. Like my 15 year old, just argue for its own sake, becoming a bore in the process.

            Only the lowest of the low end of CFLs approach $1, even then they bottom at over $2:
            Most applications need something more costly, like dimmability, warm light, rapid full output, 3 way, or varied shapes, that incandescents provide without significant premium. Further, these really cheap CFLs used such poor quality ballasts, that they have a high mortality rate, and don’t come close to the lifespans so often promoted.

            Your social engineering model just supports crony capitalists and doesn’t promote innovation like the competitive pressures do. The free market does a much better job of developing new technologies than politically motivated investing or subsidization, which invariably gets overallocated to the politically connected, not those with the best ideas or hardest work ethic.

            But you will never see that, since you’re a zealot for government control, not realizing you’re just enriching a privileged class who sees you as a useful idiot.

          • Bob_Wallace

            CFL prices at Amazon have increased to over the <$1 per bulb that they were a few months ago. Now one has to pay $1.44 per bulb. GE, hardly a low quality manufacturer.

            Oh, I was wrong. You can get GE dimmable CFLs for $1.42.

            My bad.

            Oh, and 2700 Kelvin. And new CFLs are pretty quick on.

            CFLs have been affordable for some time.

          • mlebauer

            Thanks for proving my point. You’re a tiresome bore.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Tiresome bore, reality based, what’s the difference?

          • eveee

            The free market? The one that gives 100 year old FF companies big subsidies? That one? The one where FF companies lobby their way to profitability to avoid competition? You keep making broad unsupported assertions. Perhaps the free market does work better. If so, you should support getting rid of all FF subsidies. That or show some citation that supports your assertion. Whether free markets work better or not is irrelevant, if the market is already full of subsidies distorting free market effects.

          • eveee

            Its hard to swallow your being shouted down after pages of opinion from you. Your stated opinions are not far from anyone else’s here, except

            “Lomberg and I recognize warming as a phenomenon, but dispute the more dire predictions that have come to be recognized as hyperbolic and designed for a political, as opposed to scientific, response. Sometimes that has fed crony capitalists seeking to promote technologies that improved their bottom lines at the expense of consumers.”

            Phony capitalist cronies sounds like BP touting solar while divesting it. On the disputing dire predictions, you need to explain what Miami does when the ocean gets three feet higher, or why you think all the scientists are wrong.

          • Doug Cutler

            Miebauer, thanks for your reply. Hopefully sustaining my preference for old school respectful debate, facts and concepts only, no ad hominem; I have a number of responses:

            First of all, if you read my last post carefully I was actually being a little coy – perhaps even sneaky – not so much asserting positions as laying them out for consideration. I wasn’t always “agreeing” with Lomborg nor with slow-onset climate change forecasts. Mainstream climate science certainly does not support a “slow” onset. However, I will assert a position now: I must agree we other posters here that the consequences of guessing wrong on climate change are so dire that we should invoke the cautionary principal with extreme prejudice. Fortunately, the cost of doing so is increasingly negligible if not positive, making this position entirely rational and not at all extreme.

            (If you want to debate with real climate extremists you might try some of the hard left blogs inhabited by those who believe its already too late to avoid turning the Earth into another Venus, or who revile both clean and dirty tech capitalism with equal vigor, indeed, for whom even Kickstarter is too much capitalism.)

            One more point in this section I meant to make in my last post: One group that IS taking mainstream CC seriously is Pentagon and US Military threat analysis:


            Next point – you said: “Exactly the points I tried to make”

            One position I did strongly suggest in my last post was that Lomborg’s website figures for cost of green energy revolution of 11% GDP/yr were significantly out of date. Are you saying this is one of my points you were agreeing with? You did not specify. You still have a chance to clarify the point. For my part, I would be interested to see an update of Lomborg’s “global problems” TED Talk factoring in 30c solar PV.

            I should also inform you of my opinion that there are denizens of this sight whose command of data and logic is truly remarkable – far beyond my ability. I’m merely an enthusiastic amateur but there are professional grade intellects at work here. You can debate them on the data but you better be ready to do it with the rigor of a PHD candidate defending their Thesis. For my own part, I mostly just try to read an learn.

            Let me finish by once again celebrating the common ground. Like yourself, I’m also a huge fan of the new LEDs. “How ’bout them engineers!” But 10 years ago it was not so clear LED would get here. We can second guess CFL now but at the time it was the next best choice. Europe reduces Putin’s leverage with renewable energy independence. Check. It was a precipitous fall in the price of oil that helped push the Soviet Union over the edge last time. Maybe it can happen again but not until next gen car batteries arrive. Finally, its great to be living at the dawn of the Solar Age, isn’t it?

            Hail . . . Sol Invictus! The Undefeated Sun.

          • Doug Cutler

            Hi miebauer. I just made a long response but somehow it got swallowed. We agree on some points but not all. I may try again later. Till then, to the dawn of the Solar Age –

            Hail . . . Sol Invictus! The Undefeated Sun

          • A Real Libertarian

            The problem is Lomborg’s objective is preventing renewable energy and all his “concern for the poor” is a mask for his true goal.

            Long story short, Lomborg would rather have no money for malaria and no money for renewables then money for both.

          • eveee

            You don’t like the source? You want it from a real news source? You mean like the Economist, right?
            “Electricity prices have fallen from over €80 per MWh at peak hours in Germany in 2008 to just €38 per MWh now (see chart 2). (These are wholesale prices;”

            What the article says is that the only companies threatening to leave Germany are the utilities that over invested in FF generation and now have to compete with renewables that have made wholesale power prices plummet in Germany.

            By the way, Platts is no hippy hang out. Its where power professionals go for information. Not hippies.

            “German power prices extended their downward trend in 2013 with spot power on average 13% lower than in 2012, while year-ahead prices fell to their lowest level in over eight years due to oversupply from renewable and conventional sources as well as cheaper generation costs and falling demand.”


          • Bob_Wallace

            Here, I made you a picture.

            Compare the 2005 and the 2013 prices for EU27 and German industrial electricity prices. (Red ovals.)

            Look at how German industrial electricity prices rose until 2009 (black oval) and then fell.


            Are you intellectually capable of questioning your sources? Or are you too wedded to your beliefs?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Looks like Disqus ate that picture. Let’s try again….

          • mlebauer

            It’s impossible to reconcile energy prices in Germany with costs. Energiewende is based on taxes and subsidies, massively distorting markets. If you have a table on costs, by all means. Until then, I’ll rely on reputable news magazines for my interpretation, not some warmist zealot on a green energy website.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, you don’t understand the German subsidy system. People who install solar receive an FiT, a guaranteed selling price. That does not distort the market, the subsidy program pays the difference between market price and guaranteed price.

            Do facts disturb you?

          • eveee

            Citing magazine articles?
            It’s hardly a surprise for the threatened coal industry to claim “many large industrial corporations are migrating out of [Germany].” But for The Economist to make a similar claim, also without a single example, is unusual: Germany’s top energy economist sees no sign of industrial flight, nor has a request for examples elicited any. Yet the canard persists. Perhaps such confusion is due to U.S. expansion of gas-intensive chemical giants like BASF, which naturally pivot toward fourfold-cheaper U.S. natural gas because it’s both a fuel and a feedstock; BASF in Germany also makes 70 percent of its electricity internally from natural gas. But as Craig Morris of Renewables International notes, chemical firms’ U.S. expansions are driven by U.S. gas prices, not German electricity prices. Giant German firms enjoy Germany’s low and falling wholesale electricity prices, getting the benefit of renewables’ near-zero operating cost but exempted from paying for them, as I’ll describe below.

          • eveee

            They both are fossil fuel shills, unwitting or not. And both have been debunked. Instead of citing magazines that state opinions, find references to back up the magazine’s opinions. Left or right has nothing to do with the accuracy of facts. Show the onslaught of companies leaving Germany. Prove the high costs are due to renewables, not taxes. You cannot. All false canards. All recently debunked here and elsewhere.

            “It’s hardly a surprise for the threatened coal industry to claim “many large industrial corporations are migrating out of [Germany].” But for The Economist to make a similar claim, also without a single example, is unusual: Germany’s top energy economist sees no sign of industrial flight, nor has a request for examples elicited any.”


            German wholesale rates are dropping fast, the rest is taxes.

          • Hans

            Actually living in Germany I can say that Spiegel is viewed as a conservative magazine.

    • daenku32

      My go-to reply is that the city I live in has a few square miles of open warehouse rooftop, which current does nothing useful with all that solar energy.

      • Robert Helbing

        When was the last time you were on a warehouse roof? For me, it was yesterday.
        They aren’t that empty. There are utilities, skylights, mechanical equipment and other items up there. They are also pretty flimsy; as a rule, they are not engineered to support the weight of dozens or hundreds of solar panels.
        That doesn’t mean it’s not a good solution. But it will work best with warehouses designed and built with solar panels in mind. Retrofitting existing buildings won’t be an easy task.
        Finally, if your city has lots of warehouses, you can bet that land is pretty cheap there already. No one builds warehouses in places where land is expensive. It’s a poor return on a valuable asset.

        • Bob_Wallace

          All bogus issues.

          There are rooftop arrays all over the country. Check out IKEA and Walmart if you’d like to get some real world experience.

          • Robert Helbing

            Sure, they’re out there. But they’re out there on “prestige” projects, where large corporations are seeking to burnish their image. Those organizations will pay well above average so they can get the desired bragging rights.
            If the economics are the slam-dunk you claim, we’d see these on most warehouses, even seedy ones managed by companies who don’t much care about their public image. Is it happening? One here, maybe, and one there. But a mass movement? It’s not in sight.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “If the economics are the slam-dunk you claim, we’d see these on most warehouses, even seedy ones managed by companies who don’t much care about their public image.”


          • Robert Helbing

            Wal-Mart cares a great deal about their public image.
            They didn’t used to. In 1998, they spent zero on lobbying and public relations (one subsidiary spent $140,000). They wanted a low profile.
            But then they started getting targeted by unions, so they shifted gears. Now they have the full court press; lobbyists, PR firms, HR awareness training, press releases, connections to elected officials and think tanks, and the rest. They spent over $7 million lobbying last year. They can’t hide anymore; they’ve grown too big.

          • eveee

            Are you really arguing that Wal Mart is not interested in the economics of this and instead is willing to waste money on it? Once again, thats an unsupported assertion. Prove it with some citations.

            “Electricity costs represent the single-largest operating expense for most companies, but solar panel prices have fallen 40 per cent since 2010 and new financing models have reduced upfront investment costs, meaning companies can incorporate solar power below local retail utility rates and save money almost immediately.”


          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s what Walmart says about renewable energy on their web page…

            “Harnessing Solar Power

            We’re using the power of the sun and installing solar panels to lower our energy costs. Efforts like these are not only good for the environment, but they also keep prices low for customers.​”


          • happy shopper of walmart

            So you say, but Wal-Mart has solar power, they care for public image and the environment.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oh, bull. Walmart doesn’t give a big damn about their image. They are all about profit.

            Check what Walmart has published. They are installing solar because it increases their profits.

            Solar has only become (moderately) cheap in the last couple of years. It will take a while to cover all the rooftops.

            Take a look at how fast solar is growing. Yes, it’s less than 1% of produced US electricity, but look at the slope.

            And, remember, at one time the US got 0% of its electricity from coal and at one time the US got 0% of its electricity from nuclear. It took a while to build those sources up to where they became major players.

          • Discount low prices

            Yes they do! WalMart installed solar power, that a good image, that all that account.

        • daenku32

          I worked in a retrofitted late ’90s warehouse that had a dozen massive air conditioners installed on the rooftop to cool the manufacturing operations underneath it. And then there is the many feet of wet snow that they have to handle. “Flimsy”. Solar panels are light by comparison.

          I’m sticking with my point: there are square miles of roof top space ready to take solar paneling.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are even racking systems that carry the system weight to the walls and don’t place it on the roof.

        • Robby Breadner

          you really are working hard to see solar not work. sheesh.

    • mds

      1/3 of the Earth’s terrestrial surface (land) is desert. If we use 10% efficiency panels, then less than 9% of desert lands would be needed to supply all of the worlds power. (Not all of the world’s electricity, but all of the world’s total power used.) …and it’s a renewable source, it will last virtually forever.
      A number of solar PV panels are now over 20% efficient, few are as low as 10%. So really we’re talking much less than 9% of desert lands.
      Then there is building roofs, parking lots, brown fields, etc.
      Of course you’re actually a denialist, so you’re just going to make one excuse or another why none of these will work when in-fact they all already are. Maybe you are just wrong.

      • mlebauer

        You’re forgetting the transmission costs. Most of those desert areas are not close to the population centers that need the power. Bringing it there requires high tension power lines. It makes sense in some cases, like Saudi Arabia. But China’s deserts, for example, are far away from its large population centers in the East of the country.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Solar is being installed close to point of use. The price is so low now that it’s getting cheaper to accept the lower efficiency of the non-desert areas and distribute solar around the grid.

        • mds

          No, I’m making the point that Robert Helbing’s claim that solar will take up a lot of arable land is false. I think you are taking my comments out of context. In the US we can generate most of the electricity we use now from Solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses. There are also large parking areas that can be used. Since these are close to the point of use, then I agree with you, they will provide the most economical source of solar electricity.
          That doesn’t mean we won’t use large solar power plants in the desert. The Mohave Desert is not that far away population centers in Southern California. They already trade power with Nevada and Arizona, farther away.
          I live in the Seattle area, Western Washington. We get a lot of our power from dams on the Columbia River on the other side of the Cascade Mountains in Eastern Washington. If power lines like that work for hydro, then I can’t see why they aren’t ok for wind and solar.
          There is also industrial point of use, like mining in the deserts of Australia and Chile. In those places solar is now being used to provide a lower cost energy source for mining operations in the desert. It would be very expensive to run power lines to those remote areas, as you point out, and it is also very expensive to truck in diesel oil, as they have been doing.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Intermountain Intertie (Path 27) is a HVDC transmission line which run from Utah (just south of SLC) to SoCal. It has been used to bring electricity from coal plants to SoCal. With coal being phased out that route is going to lose it’s traffic.

            Some clever person could build a nice big solar farm (or several) in Utah with the panels pointed east and sell into the morning demand peak. Money to be made there as demand in SoCal increases before the SoCal sunshine kicks in. And anywhere along that line large arrays could be built and have the electricity moved to market with low loss.

            That’s transmission from the desert that is already in place.

            Path 27 will be connected to the Pacific Intertie which runs between the PNW and SoCal. That will create a loop and increase reliability. A leg will be extended into Wyoming to bring wind south to SoCal. Wyoming wind picks up about the time SoCal sunshine starts to fade.

            When that is complete Southwest sunshine can be shipped to the PNW and Wyoming, PNW hydro and wind can be shipped to SoCal and Wyoming, Wyoming wind can be shipped to where it’s needed. Utah would be a good place for closed loop PuHS. All sorts of creative siting and sharing can be done. Idaho could jump in and use a big hunk of their hydro as dispatchable generation, trade it for cheaper wind and solar from elsewhere.

          • mds

            A lot of good information there. Thank you.
            mlebauer seems to be another clueless nay-sayer. 😉
            I’d like to see the series of dams on the Columbia and Skagit Rivers used to help store Southern California solar for use on cloudy days.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect we’ll see PNW dams used more for fill-in rather than always-on generation going forward. Once SW solar and upper west wind come on line PHW hydro becomes an excellent way to fill in the gaps. “No loss” storage.

        • eveee

          Nope. Transmission costs are about 10% of the cost of generation. Nobody is forgetting about them. All generation sources use new transmission, not just renewables. The transmission costs affect which energy goes where. When renewable costs are lower, the pressure builds to increase transmission.

    • mds

      1/3 of the Earth’s terrestrial surface (land) is desert. If we use 10% efficiency panels, then less than 9% of desert lands would be needed to supply all of the world’s power. (Not all of the world’s electricity, but all of the world’s total power used.) …and it’s a renewable source, it will last virtually forever.
      A number of solar PV panels are now over 20% efficient, few are as low as 10%. So really we’re talking much less than 9% of desert lands. Then there is building roofs, parking lots, brown fields, etc. Of course you’re actually a denialist, so you’re just going to make one excuse or another why none of these will work when in-fact they all already are. Maybe you are just wrong.

    • RobS

      If only there were structures over our heads in populated areas upon which those solar panels could be fixed upon which nothing else of any functional purpose is affixed which solar panels would interfere with, imagine the possibllity if such wondrous things existed. I dream of such things and in my dream I have decided I will call them roofs. But I know such folly is merely the dreamings of an idealist.

      Back in the real world I actually generate almost 80% of my total electricity needs from solar panels that fit on a fraction of my available home rooftop and could easily add more and will in a few years when the current FiT contract that prevents me from adding to my system expires. NO additional land is needed to approach levels of solar penetration that exceed even the wildest of pro solar advocates would support, essentially we could approach 100% solar electricity needs with available residential, commercial and industrial rooftops.

  • rlhailssrpe

    Do not buy a used car from people who think this way.

    There are two omitted truths which change this picture for any investor. You can burn carbon fuels at night (or in a wind storm) at a reasonable cost. There is an infinite cost, per BTU, during the night, or under a cloud, for solar electricity, IF you can not store juice. And to store juice, at a scale needed for America’s grid, then condition the outflow to be compatible with its technical needs, is either impossible, cost prohibitive, or requires a religious belief in miracles. Continuous miracles.

    Hold on to your wallet. Or invest with your eyes open.

    There is a simple market transaction which would remove this ideological – cost conflict to a sane resolution. It would be a simple “smart grid” task to define and charge customers for the type of juice generation they are willing to pay for. This should exist, but does not. It would define the real cost of solar electricity.

    For those who promote eternality costs, “on the other guy”, it would be another simple task to define the cost of marriage licenses for a gay couple, both in San Fransisco and the Vatican. Both situations depend on faith, not market cost analysis.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” And to store juice, at a scale needed for America’s grid, then condition the outflow to be compatible with its technical needs, is either impossible, cost prohibitive, or requires a religious belief in miracles. ”

      False. Pump-up hydro is already being used (20 GW in operation in the US), affordable, and just requires building.

      ” You can burn carbon fuels at night (or in a wind storm) at a reasonable cost.”

      You need to do full accounting. Coal is extremely expensive.

      As for night or in a wind storm, it’s very hard to beat the price of wind generation.

      This –

      “For those who promote eternality costs, “on the other guy”, it would be another simple task to define the cost of marriage licenses for a gay couple, both in San Fransisco and the Vatican. Both situations depend on faith, not market cost analysis.”

      is bizarre. The cost of a marriage licenses is the same for straights or gays. The cost to the government to record the marriage is the same.

      • rlhailssrpe

        “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

        Yes, pumped hydro exists. I engineered one of the largest. No, they could never support the grid, the geological, and financial constraints are impossible. Utilities, correctly, view them as high unit cost, marginally profitable facilities, which work in narrow applications.

        I concur that coal and everything else in energy, sans fracking, is getting extremely expensive. I see zero effort to reduce energy costs in America. It is possible, would require trade offs, would vastly improve our employment situation, but I doubt it will happen. The result: Americans will continue to get poorer.

        And you point out a truth, there are direct costs, e.g. the administrative government costs to record a marriage, and the final price, which relies on ideology. This is the weakness of externality costs, the contract cost between the agreeing parties, A and B, but defined by the external party C. If C is GM, Fords will always cost more. The Keystone building permit will always cost more if party C is the Sierra Club. Yes, it is bizarre.

        • mds

          Oh great, another old dog of an industry that hasn’t changed for a century. …and you can’t see that solar, wind, and storage are getting cheaper right in front of you. Big surprise. Don’t bother to look at the trends in cost shown on that graph. It’ll smack you in the head later on anyway.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Why do you believe there are geological constraints that would make larger scale PuHS impossible?

          “Not support the grid” simply makes no sense. Clearly if “enough” was built the grid would be supported.

          ” I see zero effort to reduce energy costs in America.”

          I see large efforts being extended. Increased fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles. The phasing out of incandescent bulbs. Increased appliance efficiency requirements. The list is very long and we are cutting our energy costs.

          “And you point out a truth, there are direct costs, e.g. the administrative government costs to record a marriage, and the final price, which relies on ideology.”

          I suspect your apparent homophobia would best be taken to a different blog.

          • Mike Spangler

            “Why do you believe there are geological constraints that would make larger scale PuHS impossible?”

            Looking at a map. PuHS needs an elevation change. Now look at the largest dam in Wisconsin, the Petenwell flowage. About 50 feet high. and see how much area it flooded.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What’s the issue? PuHS doesn’t need weeks or months of reserve. It’s days.
            The Bath County Pumped Storage Station is a pumped storage hydroelectric power plant, described as the “largest battery in the world”,with a generation capacity of 3,003 MW. The station consists of two reservoirs separated by about 1,260 feet (380 m) in elevation. It is the largest pumped-storage power station in the world.

            The upper reservoir on Little Back Creek has a surface area of 265-acre and the lower is 555 acres.


            We have 38 PuHS sites in the US. They’re so small most people have never heard of them.

            We have about 80,000 existing dams in the US. We use about 2,500 for electricity generation. Using data from a 2007 study of existing dams on federal land over 10% of those dams should be usable for PuHS. They have adequate head and are reasonably close to transmission lines.

            Then there are closed loop systems, for which we would have thousands of usable sites.

            A study of potential sites in Europe found thousands of potential sites where one or both reservoirs are already in place.

          • RobS

            It’s not even days, even a few hours of storage capacity will allow intermittent renewables to be taken from 20-30% of the grid up to 80-90% with storage, baseload and dispatchable renewables filling the gaps and even a few fossil fuel resources available for deep backup in the event of prolonged low production periods from the technologically and geographically diverse suite of renewables. Once you take some action to extend the production period of available renewables for example west facing solar arrays whose output peak at 4pm instead of 1pm for south facing arrays, opt in demand response programs to reduce consumption during periods of high demand or reduced production, efficiency measures particularly for devices used at times of peak demand such as heating and cooling and demand time shifting you really only need very small amounts of storage to allow deep renewable penetration.

          • Mike Spangler

            The point you missed is that the largest reservoir in Wisconsin has about 50 feet of head. Your example has 1260 feet. Pumped storage is not practical everywhere.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Fifty feet of head is adequate. You just have to use larger volume.

            PuHS can be installed in most parts of the world. Finland and Florida might be exceptions.

            Does Wisconsin have any abandoned rock quarries, open pit mines or subsurface mines? Anywhere that the terrain rises 150 feet or more in 2 or 3 miles?

            All are usable for pump up.

            Actually even Florida might be able to use pump-up. Belgium is building a “hollow island” offshore to use for pump-up. Pump out the seawater with surplus electricity, let it flow back in when electricity is needed.

          • eveee

            Water can be pumped out instead. Lake Michigan is nearby. Any abandoned quarry can pour water in generating electricity and pump water out to store. Elevation can go negative, not just positive. Pumped air storage in deep depositories. Does Wisconsin/UP have any mines? Further, there is no need to think small regional areas. Instead, look at large multi state, multi national zones. Manitoba is storing hydro with agreements to minnesota. There is an abundance of wind from Manitoba to Texas. Considering Wisconsin alone does not make sense. Midwest independent system operator covers a huge area. They think large area. We should, too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “The Elmhurst Quarry Pumped Storage Project (EQPS) is a unique application for pumped storage. The site in the city of Elmhurst, Ill., is just 20 miles from downtown Chicago. EQPS is being developed by Dupage County, Ill., to optimize the value of flood control resources and renewable energy production within one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The quarry site is presently being used as a critical flood storage resource.

            The project design and location provide a wide range of advantages. Not only is it situated within a major load center, EQPS utilizes an abandoned limestone quarry with both surface and underground mine works that can be used as pumped-storage reservoirs with low environmental impact and cost as compared to other pumped-storage alternatives in the region. The site is also located adjacent to a transmission line. And the addition of a pumped storage component will enhance the existing Salt Creek flood storage operation by providing faster quarry emptying after a flood event.

            EQPS has an initial design capacity of 50 MW to 250 MW, with anticipated annual generation of 708.5 GWh. Final project capacity will be determined based on the selected method of project pump and generation cycle operation and long- or short-term energy storage requirements. The upper and lower reservoirs will each have a minimum active capacity of about 7,465 acre feet.”


          • eveee

            Nice ref, Bob. There is another quarry, maybe bigger in nearby Hillside. Pretty good storage for a state that’s pool table flat.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We see people state that there are no places to install pump-up. Making that claim about Europe is quite common.

            Here’s a study that identifies a few thousand places in Europe where one or both of the needed reservoirs are already in place. And for the one reservoir places there is a good location for the second nearby.

            There are hundreds in Germany.

    • mds

      “IF you can not store juice. And to store juice, at a scale needed for America’s grid, then condition the outflow to be compatible with its technical needs, is either impossible, cost prohibitive, or requires a religious belief in miracles.”
      EOS, Acquion, Ambri, LightSail, Tesla Li Ion, Other Li Ion, …and many others. Solar and wind plus NG fill in works right now to save cost. Solar and wind plus low-cost storage is coming to the market right now. Not miracles, chemistry …old guy. If you won’t do it on the grid, then we’ll do it at our homes and businesses. It’s happening now. What do you think the continuation of current cost trends for solar, wind, and storage means anyway?

      • rlhailssrpe

        There are too many errors in the article and comments, and I have limited time. Engineering the grid is complex and is best left to professionals. (I engineered a score of nukes and two score fossil plants and spend decades assessing advanced technologies e.g. nanotechnology, ultracapacitors, superconductivity, silicon carbide switching, etc.) The current trend is to regulate the opposition and subsidize the friends. It must stop, both for carbon and green energies (there is a valid national security argument on uranium). There is a valid argument on distributed power generation vs the grid. But not both; it is too expensive. There is a valid argument on interrupt able power (a lower standard of living, doing without) vs. continuous supply.

        But the spin masters must hush with the nonsense. When they put their own money, not mine or my grand kids’, behind their brave words, their energy ideas will become real. I doubt it will ever happen.

        • Bob_Wallace

          In other words you just want to spout off but can’t be bothered to backup any of your ‘stuff’.

        • mds

          I’ve knocked pompous fossils like you off their pedestals before, proved them wrong. A new engineering definition for you: “expert” – An “ex” is a has-been. A “spert” is a drip under pressure. The cost trends are very clear. Some are just blind. Maybe they’ve done some good work in the past. Maybe they’re in the way now.

          • mlebauer

            Then knock down his arguments. Gratuitous insults are unpersuasive and reflect poorly on their author.

          • mds

            Already did. Provided examples of low cost storage coming to the market right now. He said it was impossible to do large scale storage. This makes renewables non-viable in his opinion. I gave examples of low-cost storage that is coming to the market and will be doing large scale storage and medium scale at low enough cost to compete well. This is in addition to pumped hydro storage already being argued by here others.
            His response to my comments was dismissive jibberish. No counter. Sorry for my digression in response, but I’ve played that game and it grates.

        • eveee

          Spin is opinion without fact. Provide references or become an example of spin. The cost of storage is dropping exponentially. Here is a reference. See? That’s how you avoid spin.

          • rlhailssrpe

            From your 2013 reference, “A back-of-envelope says we need to bring the cost of energy storage down
            by another factor of 10 in order to make grid-scale storage cheap
            enough to displace most fossil use for electricity. On current trend,
            it looks like we’ll be there in the next 15-20 years.”

            The reference states, ” The experience curve is a sort of generalization of a trend like Moore’s Law.” which is solely related to semiconductors, not the chemical batteries in the subreferences. They discuss the engineering barriers to chemical batteries: first cost, degradation over time and charging cycle limitations. All references ignore power conditioning, and scale up problems, all significant costs of grid supply. Some of these barriers existed prior to WW II, for base loaded grid supply. (These modern advances will create niche markets.)

            The spin will end when these barriers are overcome and investment capital, in
            the tens of billions, flow into this, or any green technologies. When you, or
            anyone is willing to invest their own money in a new energy scheme, and
            survive, which I did for decades, then the spin will be gone. This is the fact of life. Good luck, but my money goes elsewhere.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s batteries for bulk storage. We already have pump-up hydro at a very affordable price. We’ve been using it for decades in order to fit nuclear to the grid.

            Batteries have now dropped enough in price to compete with gas peakers. Companies are now installing.

            Personally, I don’t care where you invest your money. You aren’t a player.

          • eveee

            Ever heard of Elon Musk, Tesla? You been hiding under a rock? I have news for you. spinner.


            Solar energy in 2013 removed its training wheels and started competing with traditional energy sources. In the fourth quarter alone, the average weighted price per watt of solar capacity installed dropped by 15%, averaging $2.59 compared to more than $6 in 2010. Last quarter, SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY ) installed a total of 70 megawatts of residential solar capacity, cementing its leading position in the U.S. residential solar market. With 41% overall domestic growth last year and sharply declining costs, solar energy is no longer for the wealthy, it’s here for the masses.

        • MorinMoss

          Where have all you professional grid-engineers been?
          Report after report shows that the US grid is borderline archaic.
          And some electrical engineers are saying that it would take $10 TRILLION just to get it into the kind of shape needed to support the level of renewables that will be installed over the next few years.
          How did the experts not see this coming?

          • rlhailssrpe


            I received this six months after the article and my replies.

            Since then crude has dropped 20%, the IRS was caught lying, ISIS is slaughtering nations, the Senate will probably swing to the Republicans and Ebola is now in the US.

            There is not much substantive in this new ad hominem attack.

  • Tautologist

    Look closely at the chart showing the drop in price for solar. If the “y” axis of the chart was showing price per MMBtu in increments of $.25 from o to $10.00, you would clearly see that there is an enormous gap in price between coal and gas, versus solar. No doubt that solar has a place in certain parts of the world reliant on importing fuels from the far ends of the earth, but as the study points out, we are still a long way from adopting solar as an efficient, cost-effective energy source.

    • Matt

      The reason for the “cheap” coal/gas is that they don’t count externals in the cost. But in places like China and India those external have gotten so bad the wind/PV are looking cheaper. You don’t have to include climate externals to see that just the water, pollution, health cost are enough. Both China and India politicians know that this issue could remove them from power. Look at the campaign in India where they are fighting over who will push wind/PV more.
      Without the exemption from US law given to fracking by Bush, the US would not have seen the fracking boom and resulting temporary NG price drop.

      • meth

        Matt…you are incorrect about the Bush “exemption” on fracturing. The amendment to the 2005 Energy Policy act only impacted one natural gas producing area in EPA region 4 that was subject to an 11th Circuit Court ruling from 1997. The amendment had absolutely no impact on any other oil or gas producing areas where hydraulic fracturing is used. The combination of hydraulic fracturing AND horizontal drilling is the reason we have more natural gas/oil production today.

        • sault

          “Energy Policy Act of 2005
          Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:
          ‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’—
          ‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
          ‘‘(B) EXCLUDES—
          ‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
          ‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’
          The exemption applies to the ENTIRE INDUSTRY you liar!!!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Dial it back, please.

            No allcaps. No name-calling.

          • Cody Leslie

            Nice regulating, Bob!

          • sault

            Hey, “meth” deliberately tried to mislead people with the needless obfuscation in their post. You don’t make stuff up like this unless you’re deliberately trying to mislead people.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hammer him with facts and logic.

          • meth

            There is no attempt whatsoever to mislead. The facts are that the 11th Circuit made a ruling on the definition of hydraulic fracturing that the EPA and the courts only applied to a particular area of Region 4. NO OTHER area was bound by the court decision. Therefore the fix for the court decision ( a definition ruling and NOT any finding of harm from hydraulic fracturing) was the amendment and it only applied to this one area and changed NOTHING for the rest of the United States. I urge you to look up LEAF vs. EPA.

          • sault

            Look, I provided you an excerpt of the legislation containing the Haliburton Loophole. How do you intrepret this to NOT cover the entire industry? I can’t wait to see how you explain away the actual text of the bill…

          • RobS

            The ruling of the 11th circuit is not what is being discussed it is the Bush administration change to the Safe Drinking Water Act to exclude hydraulic fracturing for the purposes of oil or gas extraction from the requirements of the act that was pointed out.

      • mlebauer

        Gas use doesn’t significantly contribute to the ground and low level pollution plaguing India and China. And even coal can be burned relatively cleanly, as its use in developed countries shows. Neither contributes to water pollution. So your reasoning doesn’t work.

        Their air and water pollution contributing to health problems are issues with industrial and agricultural practices, not use of fossil fuels per se.

        • RobS

          The trouble is to burn coal cleanly it ends up costing more than wind or solar and remains far dirtier even at it’s “cleanest”

          As for your comment that coal use doesn’t pollute water ways, this is one of the few times where I literally LOL’d.

          Fossil fuels most certainly do per se cause massive amounts of gaseous and particulate pollution of both the air and water ways.

          • mlebauer

            Dude, glad to invoke your sense of amusement. I was contrasting India/China and developed countries like the US that rely heavily on coal power generation. That comparison shows that the large differential in ground and water pollution is not due per se to coal power generation, not that coal use doesn’t have environmental implications. Keep things in context before taking a dismissive and condescending tone to your response.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Dude. Get real.

            Coal is nasty stuff. It uses vast amounts of water. Both China and India are running into fresh water problems due to their use/mining of coal.
            Take yourself off to the Appalachian coal fields where the tops of mountain are being ripped off and the streams destroyed.


            Take a look at what is happening with the immense coal ash dumps.
            Read up on why there’s so much mercury in our fish that we are warned about not eating too much.


            And contemplate how much better the US debt would be if we weren’t spending $1 billion per day dealing with the external costs of coal. That one third of a trillion dollars per year could be used to pay down our debt load.

          • mlebauer

            Can the US get better? Sure. But for dogmatic environmentalists like yourself, there is no good enough and there’s no such thing as a cost/benefit analysis. People aren’t dying or suffering massive health problems from pollution in the US, unlike China. I’ve been to China, the air is sometimes almost unbreathable and people wear masks in big cities like Shanghai. There’s no comparison with the US.

            The US government isn’t spending $1B / day dealing with the external costs of coal. Wherever that figure came from, it wouldn’t be otherwise used to pay down debt. And if it were, our intrepid up for sale politicians would find ways to spend it that improves their electoral chances.

            That cost is baked into the rates we pay. Utilities will switch when it is too high for them to keep using coal, which is precisely what the Obama EPA has in mind, cost/benefit analysis be damned.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “People aren’t dying or suffering massive health problems from pollution in the US”

            Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths per year in the US.


            About 2 million Americans go to the emergency room each year with asthma attacks. 30% of which are caused by coal pollution.


            “The US government isn’t spending $1B / day dealing with the external costs of coal.”


            The portion that is paid out of tax dollars contributes to the national debt and budget deficit.

            The rest is coming out of taxpayers pockets to cover higher health insurance premium costs.

            Our coal fleet is aging. The average lifespan for a coal plant is about 40 years. Take a look at how old our coal plants are below.

            Those coal plants will have to be replaced with something. Now, do we replace it with new coal plants and spend well over 15c/kWh or with renewables which will cost around 5c/kWh?

            Can you do a cost/benefit analysis now that you have some data to use?

    • Bob_Wallace

      We spend about a billion dollars each day, a third of a trillion dollars per year, to pay for the damage caused by burning coal. As long as we ignore that very large amount of money coming out of our pockets coal will look cheap.

      Then, you need to look at how much we spend for electricity during the hours when the Sun is shining. We tend to look only at the price we pay per kWh. The wholesale price (which drives our rate) is a composite of low late night costs and higher, sometimes very much higher, peak hour prices.

      The cost of power from natural gas peakers or purchases from other grids can be extraordinary and, with merit order pricing, takes all the other suppliers up with it.

      Solar chops the legs out from under that very expensive peaker power, allowing a lower wholesale average and should lead to lower retail prices.

    • mds

      “but as the study points out, we are still a long way from adopting solar as an efficient, cost-effective energy source”
      No it doesn’t and no we aren’t.
      NG is increasing in price. Solar is still dropping in price. Certainly the solar cost trend will continue. I can point you toward several cost reduction technology changes headed to the market right now. Gee, I don’t really get it. What does a continuation of these trends mean?
      Exponential change means we are very close. Obviously!
      Those the facts. Open your eyes.

      • Tautologist

        Do you get 100% of your power from solar? If so, I respect your argument and willingness to pay a premium for your electric. If not, I rest my case.

        • sault

          People signing up for solar leasing from Solar City have all of their electricity use covered at a rate lower than their utility’s usually. Private ownership of a solar array is actually showing a 7% or more annual return for many people. You’re actually paying a premium for grid electricity if you pass up the opportunity to go solar!

        • mds

          May your case rest in peace. Solar, wind and storage are coming anyway …due to increasingly advantageous cost. Your unwillingness to see this doesn’t count for much.

        • solar man

          i bought my entire solar system, which i use less than 900kwh a month but i funded it all myself, price tage: $3000 estimated, i no longer have an electricity bill.

          why wouldnt you do the same?
          in a year ill have a full return on my investment.

    • RobS

      A long way? Project that chart forward 2 years, the cost of solar is in free fall, 30-50% per year cost reductions. The cost of every fossil fuel is steadily climbing. They will intersect in months to years, I’m not sure what your definition of a long time is but to me its not months or years. The issue for the fossil fuel industry is the lead time in their projects. To plan and build a new fossil fuel mine, distribution hub or power plant takes 5-10 years. To plan and build small scale solar takes 5-10 weeks and large scale solar 2-3 years. What this means is that fossil fuel investments now are not competing with what’s shown on the graph today, they are competing with what will be shown on that graph in 4-9 years. How many financiers do you think will be willing to bet those lines wont cross in the next decade? How many of those who shortsightedly do take that punt will be left with enormously expensive stranded assets unable to compete with renewables?

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