Renewable Energy Archive

Germany Continues Exporting Electricity: Renewables Driving Down Prices Despite Closing Reactors

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Germany’s bureau of statistics reports that the country exported more electricity than it imported during the first half of 2011. This disproves widespread rumors circulating in North America that Germany is closing its nuclear power plants by relying on imports of electricity from its neighbors.

Though the bureau of statistics notes that the margin of exports over imports has decreased from 2010, Germany sold 4 TWh more electricity than it bought during the period. Germany consumes more than 300 TWh every six months. The surplus for export represents about one percent of consumption.

In the first half of 2010, Germany exported nearly 11 TWh more electricity than it imported.

Bloomberg reports that Germany is expected to add 7,000 MW of wind and solar generating capacity in 2013, exceeding the installations projected for 2012. This massive expansion of renewable energy generating capacity is affecting the futures market for fossil-fuel fired generation.

Bloomberg quotes their own in-house expert: “The installed solar base in Germany is growing rapidly thanks to continued feed-in tariff support,” according to Jenny Chase, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy. “We expect this to weigh on power spot prices, particularly because renewable energy has priority grid access and near-zero marginal cost,” she added.

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Distributed Geothermal Can Add 7% of Californian Supply

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Small, geographically dispersed geothermal power plants could provide 7% of California’s electricity supply, according to an analysis of data collected by a consultant to the Golden state.

California recently passed new legislation requiring the state to provide 33% of its electricity from renewable energy and newly elected Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

Geothermal energy is a renewable resource using the heat of the earth to generate electricity and heat homes, offices, and factories.

California leads the world in geothermal energy development. However, most of California’s geothermal power plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s. There has been very little geothermal development in the state since Jerry Brown was last Governor in the early 1980s.

That could change. Candidate Brown prominently talked of introducing a system of feed-in tariffs to spur renewable energy development in California. Brown specifically mentioned developing as much as 12 GW of new renewable generating capacity with feed-in tariffs.

In a study for the California Energy Commission (CEC) in 2008, engineering consultant Black & Veatch examined the renewable resources available to meet California’s renewable energy target and the new transmission capacity that would be needed. Included in the consultant’s report, Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI), are detailed estimates of the cost to develop 244 proposed geothermal power plants at sites in California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

Black & Veatch considered projects as small as 8 MW to as large as 1 GW.

Distributed Geothermal

While many geothermal projects are connected at transmission voltages, they differ from typical central-station plants. Many individual geothermal projects are relatively small. Of the 244 proposed projects in the RETI database, 185 or three-fourths are less than 20 MW in size. They would, thus, qualify as distributed generation under Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed feed-in tariff.

The following analysis arbitrarily sorted the proposed projects into several size categories similar to those found where feed-in tariffs are used to develop geothermal energy.

  • <10 MW: 117
  • >10 MW<20 MW: 68
  • >20 MW<25 MW: 9
  • >25 MW<50 MW: 31
  • >50 MW<100 MW: 9
  • >100 MW<500 MW: 9
  • >1000 MW: 2

The bulk of the projects greater than 20 MW are also relatively small. 40 projects, or 16%, fall in the size range from 20 MW to 50 MW. Altogether, 90% of the proposed geothermal projects in the RETI data base are less than 50 MW in size. This is in part artificial and due to state regulations. Power plants less than 50 MW are not regulated by the CEC.

If Brown’s proposed feed-in tariff policy included geothermal projects up to 50 MW, it would encompass most of the geothermal projects in the RETI database.

Projects less than 50 MW would account for 40% of all proposed geothermal generating capacity, some 3.3 GW. These plants would produce 40% of all potential geothermal generation, about 22 TWh per year (7% of current supply) or 1.7 times more electricity than at present.

Geothermal plants in California currently generate 13 TWh per year of the nearly 300 TWh consumed annually.

What Geothermal Tariffs Are Needed

The consultants estimated the cost of electricity from the plants under several conditions: Independent Power Producers, municipal utilities, and if the generation was delivered from Canada or Mexico. Within the category of Independent Power Producers (IPP), cost estimates were further subdivided into the cost for IPPs without any federal subsidies, the cost for IPPs with Production Tax Credits (PTC), and the cost for IPPs with Investment Tax Credits (ITC).

This analysis considered only IPPs and for only two conditions: Without Federal subsidies and with the ITC, a Federal tax subsidy.

While Federal investment subsidies currently exist in the form of the PTC and ITC for many renewable energy technologies, their future is uncertain. The Federal Government’s growing budget deficit, the cost-cutting mood of Congress, and threats to the bond rating on US Federal debt suggests that tax subsidies may not be a secure source of funding. Because geothermal projects take several years to complete, investors are wary of financing projects when the future of tax credits or other ‘incentives’ is questionable.

Geothermal feed-in tariffs worldwide vary from as low as US$0.10/kWh for a 20-year contract in Spain to as much US$0.40/kWh for a 20-year contract in Switzerland.

Black & Veatch did not specifically evaluate the feed-in tariffs that would be necessary to fully pay for geothermal generation plus sufficient profit to overcome the risk of developing what is inherently a risky resource.

Feed-in tariffs are typically determined on the cost of generation plus a reasonable profit. Cost of energy studies – because of their different objectives – do not necessary reach the same conclusions about price. However, Black & Veatch’s study is the most detailed source of data in the public domain on geothermal energy and its cost and the study can serve as a proxy for what geothermal tariffs may work in the California context.

For IPP projects without access to Federal subsidies, tariffs for geothermal projects less than 20 MW in California would need to be comparable to those in Europe: from a low of US$0.13/kWh to as much as US$0.30/kWh. Tariffs for projects from 20 MW to 50 MW would vary from a low of US$0.10/kWh to a high of US$0.18/kWh.

Projects that could be developed quickly and take advantage of the federal ITC while it remains available would be significantly less expensive. For projects less than 20 MW, tariffs would vary from a low of about US$0.09/kWh to a high of US$0.20/kWh. Projects from 20 MW to 50 MW in size would require tariffs in the range from a low of US$0.08/kWh to US$0.13/kWh.

The price necessary for geothermal development in California is comparable to that of other renewable resources. Estimates of the cost of geothermal are comparable to those of wind energy, but geothermal costs less than that for generation from solar photovoltaics.

In contrast to variable renewable resources like wind and solar, geothermal provides base load generation. It is thus a natural compliment to the development of California’s abundant wind and solar resources.

California could add 7% of new renewable generation to its supply, and compliment development of its variable renewable resources by including geothermal energy in Governor Brown’s as yet unannounced feed-in tariff policy.

This feed-in tariff news update is partially supported by An Environmental Trust and David Blittersdorf in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.

Read the original post Renewable Energy Focus

Paul Gipe is author of the book
Wind Energy Basics:A Guide to Home
and Community-Scale Wind Energy Systems

German Wind More Stable Year-to-Year than Fukushima Reactors

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Critics of wind energy often charge that wind energy is too “unreliable” to generate a large portion of a nation’s electricity and suggest that base load needs “reliable” sources of generation such as nuclear power.

While wind is a “variable” resource, that is, the wind doesn’t always blow and when it does it doesn’t always blow at the same strength, wind is far more reliable than the critics charge. In fact, wind is fairly predictable on long time horizons, especially from one year to the next.

In contrast, nuclear power is “reliable” until it isn’t as the units at the Fukushima nuclear power plant so dramatically demonstrate.

The nuclear disaster still unfolding in Japan isn’t the first time the Fukushima plants have been in the news. They were at the center of the Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) documentation scandal mid decade. Several of the reactors were shut down from 2002 to 2005 for safety inspections as a result of TEPCO’s falsification of inspection and repair reports.

The Fukushima 1 plants generated, on average, 30 TWh per year. The key word here is “on average”. Despite nuclear power’s reputation as reliable base load generation, the Fukushima plants were anything but reliable over the four decades that the plants were in operation. Annual generation was surprisingly erratic or “lumpy” in the jargon of the trade.

Take Unit 6, the most modern unit, for example. In 2004 generation dropped from 4.6 TWh in 2003 to 1.1 TWh, and both were a far cry from the reported generation in 1997 of more than 9 TWh. That’s a lot of generation offline for even a big system like that in Japan that requires 1,000 TWh per year.

Similarly, Unit 5’s generation fell from 6.2 TWh in 1999 to 1.6 TWh in 2000.

But not just generation from individual units varied significantly from one-year to the next. Combined generation from Fukushima 1 also fluctuated from one year to the next. The safety shutdown at Fukushima 1 cut generation by two-thirds or nearly 20 TWh from 2002 to 2003. Generation didn’t return to normal levels until as late as 2007.

German wind energy generation, on the other hand, has been far more stable from one year to the next than Fukushima 1. Throughout the last two decades more and more wind generation has been added to the German electrical system. Today, German wind turbines generate as much electricity as the entire Fukushima 1 complex at its peak.

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that an accident at one wind turbine in Germany will affect the more than 20,000 turbines operating across the breadth of the country. The loss of one wind farm with tens or even hundreds of turbines will likewise have little effect on overall wind generation in Germany. And German wind generation is expected to continue growing for the next decade at least.

Unfortunately, all six reactors at Fukushima 1 are down permanently with a loss of 30 TWh per year of generation or nearly 3% of Japan’s supply. The loss of generation from the reactors is not the only cost of the disaster. TEPCO’s stock has lost 80% of its value since the multi-reactor meltdowns and it is unlikely to survive without a government rescue. TEPCO is a big player in Japan. They account for nearly one-third of the Japanese electricity market.

Today it would be hard to imagine any Japanese electric utility “betting the company” on building new nuclear reactors. This is the heart of the debate in Japan. What generation should be added in the short-term to get through today’s crisis, and what should be built for the long-term to avoid such dependence on “lumpy” generating resources as nuclear.

Read the original article on

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Germany Continues Breaking Clean Energy Records

Friday, March 25th, 2011

As the nuclear reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to dominate the world’s attention, Germany has quietly broken more renewable energy records.

The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, struggling to stay ahead of public attitudes toward nuclear power in the run-up to regional elections, issued its annual report on the contribution of renewable energy to the German energy market in 2010.

Wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, solar cells, and biogas digesters now provide nearly 17 percent of Germany’s electricity.

Meanwhile, the German network agency Bundesnetzagentur issued its final update on the installation of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2010.

The results are nothing short of startling and will add fuel to the heated debate about how countries such as Japan can meet their electricity needs without reliance on nuclear power.

In the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear accident, Germany’s Merkel closed two reactors permanently, and another five temporarily. She also called on her government to revisit its controversial decision to extend the life of its aging reactors.

The reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are 40 years old and their license to operate had been extended by the Japanese government.

The reports on the rapid growth of renewable energy in Germany may give Merkel’s government the cover it needs to reverse direction on nuclear power, and by doing so reverse its faltering political fortunes.

Germany uses an advanced system of feed-in tariffs to pay for renewable energy generation, and has an aggressive target of meeting 39 percent of its electricity supply with renewable energy by 2020. Its system of advanced renewable tariffs has enabled Germany to exceed its 2010 target of 12.5 percent by a wide margin.

Chart.New renewables near 17 percent of electricity supply in 2010: The German Ministry for the Environment and Reactor Safety reports [PDF] that in 2010, renewable energy generated more than 100 TWh (billion kilowatt-hours) of electricity, providing nearly 17 percent of the 600 TWh of supply.

Wind turbines and biomass plants delivered more than 70 percent of renewable generation.

Biogas plants powered with methane from manure alone generated nearly 13 TWh.

In 2010, renewables generated more electricity in Germany than gas-fired power plants — nearly as much as hard coal — and are fast approaching the contribution of nuclear power.

7,400 megawatts (MW) of solar PV installed in one year: Doubling their previous record, the German solar PV industry installed 7,400 MW from nearly one-quarter million individual systems in 2010, according to the final report by the Bundesnetzagentur.

Chart.In December alone, Germans installed more than 1,000 MW of solar PV, enough solar capacity to generate 1 TWh of electricity under German conditions. While they represent only half that installed in June 2010, the December installations were 50 percent greater than total solar PV installed in the USA in 2010 and as much as that rumored to have been installed in Japan last year.

Nearly 700 MW from some 100,000 systems were installed in a size range typical of that installed by German homeowners.

An astounding 3,700 MW from more than 135,000 systems were installed in a size range representative of that installed by farmers and other small businesses.

Another 1,700 MW were installed in a size class characteristic of small businesses and large industrial rooftops.

Large, multi-megawatt systems comprised 1,400 MW of capacity or nearly one-fifth of total capacity installed in 2010.


Renewable electricity more than 30 percent of supply on Feb. 7: A further sign that renewable energy has come of age as a commercial generating technology, certainly in Germany, is that penetration of wind and solar reached more than 30 percent of supply on Feb. 7, 2010, according to data posted publicly by Germany’s electricity transmission exchange, EEX.

The exchange posts online the amount of capacity of conventional generation, wind generation, and solar PV generation delivered to the grid by time of day.

On Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, the combined real-time wind and solar generation varied from a high of 32 percent of supply at midnight to a low of 18 percent of supply at sunrise. Solar PV generation delivered more than 8,000 MW for the two-hour period from just before noon until 2:00 p.m., reaching a peak of nearly 8,500 MW at noon. During the same time period, conventional sources contributed 50,000 MW and wind delivered another 10,000 MW to the network.

Wind chart.

There is 16,500 MW of solar PV capacity now online in Germany. Solar insolation is weakest in mid-winter, and highest in mid-summer. The solar industry’s Feb. 7 performance bodes well for this coming summer, when solar PV can be expected to break new records.

In other Feb. 7, 2011 observations:

  • PV produced 13 percent of supply at noon.
  • Wind reached nearly 1/3 of generation at midnight.
  • Wind and solar’s combined 18,500 MW at noon met 29 percent of demand.
  • PV was producing 1/2 of its nameplate in mid-winter.
  • Wind was producing near its total installed capacity.

With the Japanese nuclear calamity fresh in everyone’s mind and upcoming elections staring the government in the face, the success of Germany’s rapid development of renewable energy may give Merkel’s conservative government the flexibility it needs to weather the nuclear crisis. It would not be surprising to find the government proposing an even more aggressive pace of renewable energy development than that seen in 2010.

Read the original article on Grist.

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Community Power Report Calls for FITs in California

Friday, February 25th, 2011

In a new 61-page report, San Francisco Bay area activists call for developing the distributed generation of renewable energy in California through a system of feed-in tariffs.

The Bay Area’s Local Clean Energy Alliance published Community Power–Decentralized Renewable Energy in California to frame the debate about how the state can meet its renewable energy target as a new governor takes office.

During the Gubernatorial campaign, Governor Jerry Brown called for the development of 20,000 MW of new renewable energy capacity, 12,000 MW of which would be set aside for small, distributed projects.

Written by Bay Area activist Al Weinrub, Community Power considered projects from a suite of renewable technologies less than 20 MW in size.

Weinrub argues that decentralized renewable generation can be brought on line more quickly with less environmental impact than large, central station renewable energy projects, and thus, are better able to help the state meet its renewable energy targets.

Decentralized generation, Weinrub notes, also provides more local economic benefits than large central station projects.

In Germany, farmers and groups of citizen investors can own renewable generation directly without the need for “third-party” or corporate ownership as is common in the US. For example, half of all wind development in Germany is owned by farmers and cooperatives of people living in nearby communities.

Revenues from locally-owned projects go into the pockets of local residents who then use their profits to buy local goods and services and pay local taxes.

To implement Local Clean Energy Alliance’s vision of decentralized development of renewable energy, Community Power suggests two strategies: Community Choice Aggregation and Feed-in Tariffs.

Weinrub argues that policy action is needed because the state will fail to meet its renewable energy targets. He cites a 2009 California Public Utility Commission report that despite 129 contracts for more than 10,000 MW of large, central station renewable projects having been awarded, little has been built.

Based on experience in Germany, Denmark, and Spain, Weinrub describes the key features of successful feed-in tariff design. He says that a feed-in tariff program with these features is simple, stable, and–importantly–fair.

A well designed feed-in tariff program, says Weinrub, allows non-taxable entities such as cities, counties, state government, cooperatives, and nonprofits, the opportunity to pursue renewable energy projects.

The report contrasts sharply with the inaptly named study by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) on Model Program Rules for Community Renewables that omits discussion of both feed-in tariffs and renewables. Despite its title, the IREC report was directed solely at solar photovoltaics, ignoring other technologies. The report also only examined its preferred mechanism, net-metering, with an emphasis on third-party ownership.

Current policy in the US requires financial acrobatics to develop renewable energy with federal tax subsidies. Many projects developed locally have to sell ownership to a third party with a sufficient business tax to use the federal credits. Instead of IREC’s approach recommending third-party ownership, the Local Clean Energy Alliance’s report encourages more local ownership through feed-in tariffs.

According to a recent report, 51% of the 43,000 MW of renewable generation in Germany in 2009 was owned by farmers and individual investors. Germany uses a sophisticated system of differentiated feed-in tariffs that enable almost anyone to develop renewable energy.

Much of the rapid growth of renewable energy in Germany has occurred during the past decade when Advanced Renewable Tariffs were first introduced.

Read the original post on

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Hawaii’s New Feed-in Tariff for Solar PV Finding Limited Adoption So Far

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Expected interest in Hawaii’s feed-in tariff program has not materialized, says a report by the program’s independent observer.

Accion Group found that in the first month of operation, Hawaii’s long-awaited feed-in tariff policy had generated little activity, and much of the allocated capacity remains to be filled.

Hawaii’s experience contrasts markedly with successful programs in Ontario, Canada; Vermont; and Gainesville, Fla., where applicants, many for solar photovoltaic systems, overwhelmed administrators.

Of the total 80 megawatts allocated to the program among the three utilities, only 2.6 megawatts of solar PV applications have been filed, says Accion, a New Hampshire consulting company. Accion makes no determination of why the response to the program has been so lackluster.

In addition, 23 kilowatts of existing net-metered projects have converted to the feed-in tariff program. Twenty megawatts of capacity has been allocated to conversion from net-metering accounts through early 2011.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved Tier 1 and Tier 2 feed-in tariffs on Oct. 13, 2010. Tier 3, the final tier in the program, has not been approved and there is no definite date when it will be implemented.

Critics have charged that the program is limited and offers unattractive prices.

Hawaii Program ‘D’ Rated

In the World Future Council feed-in tariff grading system, Hawaii compares well to Vermont, though both share a “D” grade. Hawaii’s grade of 57 points is slightly higher than Vermont’s 54 points.

Hawaii’s program has two features that make it stand out in comparison to Vermont.

Hawaii is the first state in the nation with tariffs in dual tracks: one set of tariffs for those using one set of state subsidies, another set of tariffs for those who use a different state program.

Multiple Tariffs for Multiple Technologies

Vermont’s program offers two tariffs for wind energy: one for small wind, one for large. However, there are only single tariffs for all other technologies.

Hawaii, in contrast to Vermont, offers tariffs for four different technologies in two size “tiers,” as they are called. Tier 1 is for projects less than 20 kilowatts. Tier 2 is for varying amounts greater than 20 kilowatts, depending upon the island where the projects are located.

However, Hawaii’s program is far less robust than successful programs in other countries and the Canadian province of Ontario. In the World Future Council’s grading system, Ontario qualifies for an “A minus,” with 84 points.

Program Details

In implementing the program, Hawaii’s Public Utility Commission ruled that despite concerns, the program should be launched without further delay.

“The commission believes the better course is to proceed, learn from experience, and make any necessary changes and improvements upon the commission’s next opportunity to review the FIT program in two years,” the PUC said in its ruling on the program.

Following are some of the details of the Hawaii feed-in tariff:

Program review: 2 years

Program Cap: 80 MW in total

Oahu: 60 MW

Big Island:- 10 MW

Maui, Lanai, Molokai (combined): 10 MW

Project Size Tier 1: <20 kW on all islands

Project Size Tier 2: >20 kW as noted

PV: <500 kW on Oahu

PV: <250 KW on Maui and Hawaii (the Big Island)

PV: <100 kW on Lanai and Molokai

CSP: <500 kW Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (the Big Island)

CSP: <100 kW on Lanai and Molokai

Wind: <100 kW on all islands

Hydro: <100 kW on all islands

Project Size Tier 3: <5 MW on Oahu

<2.72 MW on Maui and Hawaii

Or 1 percent of peak load

Wind: >100 kW excluded on Maui and Hawaii

Comparison of Hawaii Program

By international standards. the program is modest. Hawaii has a population of 1.3 million people. The 80-megawatt FIT program limit represents about 61 watts per capita, although there are other programs in the state for procuring renewables.

In contrast, Vermont has a significantly smaller population and a program cap of 50 megawatts, resulting in a higher relative limit of about 80 watts per capita.

Neither Hawaii’s nor Vermont’s state program compares favorably to Gainesville, Fla. Gainesville has set a soft target of 32 megawatts for a population of 100,000, for a relative program cap of 320 watts per capita — four times that of Vermont and more than five times that of Hawaii.

Insolation in Florida and Hawaii is similar and significantly more than in Vermont. If all the program capacity were developed with solar PV, Hawaii and Vermont would generate about 1 percent of their electricity with solar. In contrast, Gainesville would generate 2 percent of its supply with its program.

Gainesville installed nearly 4 megawatts of solar PV in 2010, the first full year of the program. or nearly twice the 2.6 megawatts of applications under Hawaii’s program.

Germany currently generates 2 percent of its more than 500 terawatt-hours per year per year from solar PV alone. Wind turbines in Germany produce another 7 percent of supply. Biomass and biogas generation bring total renewable generation to 16 percent of supply.

A discussion of Hawaii’s feed-in tariff on the website Energy Self-Reliant States notes the estimated prices needed for a solar PV system to yield an 8 percent return on investment. The website is a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Read the original article on The Solar Home and Business Journal.

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Britain abandons renewable power mandates, embraces feed-in tariffs

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

In a potentially precedent-setting move for the English-speaking world, Great Britain’s ruling coalition proposes abandoning its long-running experiment with so-called “market reforms” of the 1990s. Included in the proposal released by Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Dec. 16, 2010, is wholesale revision of the country’s Renewable Obligation, the British version of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).

While the renewable targets will remain, the government proposes abandoning the mechanism for reaching the targets, the Renewables Obligation (RO). Instead the coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal parties proposes implementing a system of feed-in tariffs for “low carbon generation”.

Britain, along with the U.S., has been the principal intellectual and political proponent of electricity trading in a de-regulated market as the principal means for developing new generation at what was promised to be the lowest cost to consumers. Similarly, the development of renewable resources in Britain through the RO, and in the U.S. through Renewable Portfolio Standards, was premised on trading in renewable energy certificates and selecting individual projects through an auction or tendering system.

Following the Enron scandals of the late 1990s, electricity trading and de-regulation fell into disrepute. The widespread failure of programs with quota-driven markets, such as in Britain, to reach their renewable energy targets further tarnished the concept. Most jurisdictions with aggressive renewable energy policies long ago moved from quota systems to programs using feed-in tariffs to create dynamic markets for renewable energy.

Of major European countries, only Britain’s RO and Italy’s RPS for wind energy remain. Nearly all other markets have moved to fixed feed-in tariffs for renewable energy. Italy abandoned its RPS for all but wind in the mid 2000s. Britain abandoned its traditional subsidy program for renewables in late 2009.

Italy moved to feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaics (PV) with its Conto Energia in 2006 and hasn’t looked back. Italy, now the second-largest solar PV market in the world, is expected to install more than 1,000 MW in 2010.

Even Britain, one of the remaining examples of an European RPS program, implemented a comprehensive system of feed-in tariffs in the spring of 2010 for projects up to 5 MW.

Huhne’s proposal follows the coalition’s agreement coming to power of moving the RO to a system of feed-in tariffs. New feed-in tariffs could be in place by 2013, but existing contracts under the RO could be built through 2017. The latter is critical for Britain’s booming offshore wind sector.

However, environmentalists have reacted with alarm to the government’s inclusion of “low carbon” technologies in its proposal. “Low carbon” is code for nuclear power and Carbon Sequestration and Storage or CSS.

Renewable energy advocates have joked for years that nuclear power should be held to the rigors of a feed-in tariff market. Only then, they’ve argued, would policy makers learn the true cost of nuclear, and by extension that of CSS. In Ontario, for example, the rumored cost of new nuclear of $0.20 per kWh makes even solar PV look attractive.

If the government’s program is implemented as proposed, renewable advocates may unfortunately get their wish. University of Birmingham lecturer Dave Toke has publicly warned that the nuclear wolf among the renewable sheep could lead to a massive slaughter as nuclear’s characteristic cost overruns gobble up all funding for “low carbon” technologies.

Toke, an authority on Britain’s complex RO, as well as an earlier failed program, the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO), has issued a call to arms for a robust, German-style feed-in tariff program that isn’t a cover for the nuclear industry.

Ironically, it was the NFFO that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher implemented to help Britain’s struggling nuclear industry with ideologically acceptable public support. Since then the British nuclear industry has been privatized and sold off to French and German utilities.

NFFO, an early quota program based on auctions, failed both as a means to support the nuclear industry and renewable energy. Only one-fourth of the renewable contracts won through NFFO auctions were ever built. It was the failure of the NFFO auctions that led Britain down the ultimately unsuccessful RPS path.

Toke’s warnings are taken seriously within Britain’s renewables and environmental community. They have painful memories of the government’s past duplicity on renewable energy, or as Shakespeare said of “perfidious Albion.”

Read the original post on Grist.

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Thailand Feed-in Tariff Program Harvests Large Crop of Projects

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Since the introduction of its small-power program in 2006, Thailand has signed contracts to develop 4,300 megawatts of renewable generation. Nearly half of the contracts – 1,800 megawatts – are for solar energy alone.

Currently 850 megawatts of generation are online as a result of the program, says Chris Greacen, a former consultant to the Thai government. The large majority of that, 700 megawatts, is from biomass. Only 16 megawatts’ worth of solar is in operation, but the number of projects is growing rapidly, according to Mr. Greacen.

Thailand’s Very Small Power Producer program uses the “bonus model” of feed-in tariff design where the final tariff paid is composed of several “adders” on top of the avoided wholesale cost of generation.

As in successful programs elsewhere, the Thai feed-in tariffs are differentiated by technology. However, the Thai feed-in tariff program contains several unique features. There is a specific “adder” or bonus for offsetting diesel-fired generation. There is also a location adder or risk premium for projects in three southern provinces and an adder to compensate for fossil-fuel price volatility.

Thailand joins several other Asian countries, such as China, Malaysia and the Philippines, that have moved to feed-in tariffs or are in the process of doing so.

The Thai program includes anti-gaming provisions to discourage “briefcase” project developers from clogging the program with applications that are unlikely to be built. The program requires a 200 baht ($6) per kilowatt-hour deposit to prove the developer’s good faith. Further, no adder will be paid if project completion is more than one year past its due date.

Contracts to date are dominated by proposed biomass and solar thermal electric projects. There are 1,400 megawatts of solar thermal electric projects under contract, and 2,100 megawatts of biomass projects under contract.

To increase project diversity, Thailand is providing government-backed loans at 4 percent interest up to 50 million baht ($1.6 million) per project. Similar to Germany’s KfW (the German Bank for Reconstruction and Finance), the government has loaned 4 billion baht to 13 banks at 0.5 percent interest for use in the program.

The Thai program followed the introduction of a net-metering policy in 2002. The current feed-in tariff program went into effect in 2006. Projects are limited to 10 megawatts. Contracts vary from seven to 10 years.

Most solar photovoltaic projects under contract are large, ground-mounted arrays. Interestingly, nearly all will use inverters made by a domestic Thai manufacturer.

Payment for a typical solar project not located in the southern provinces would include 8 baht/kwh solar bonus, 2.6 baht/kwh for the wholesale avoided cost, plus 0.93 baht/kwh for the fuel volatility bonus. The total payment, 11.5 baht/kwh, comes to about $0.38/kwh. However, solar contracts are good for only 10 years.

More information may be obtained from the organization Palang Thai.

Read the original post on The Solar Home and Business Journal.

windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Ontario feed-in tariffs creating solar jobs at the cost of a donut per month

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Using a measure of cost that all Canadians understand, a provocative new report says the impact of Ontario’s feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaics (PV), which will create 70,000 jobs, is no more than one Tim Hortons donut per month.

Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian coffee-shop chain found in even the smallest village.

The confidential report comes at a time of heated political debate in the provincial capital of Toronto about the cost of the current government’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Ontario’s feed-in tariff program is the most visible — and the most controversial — aspect of the policy.

The report by ClearSky Advisors was prepared for private, and so far unnamed, clients. However, a summary has been released to the media.

ClearSky says that by 2015, Ontario’s solar PV industry will have created 72,000 person-years of jobs.

Ontario plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. Generation by renewable sources, including solar PV, will be used to offset the coal-fired generation lost.

Program cost minimal

Critics of the program say that feed-in tariffs are the cause of what they claim are increasing electricity costs.

Not so, says ClearSky’s summary. Cost of electricity in the province will increase slightly to a maximum of about one percent of a typical household’s bill, then decline steadily as the initial contracts work their way through the system.

Solar PV is the most expensive of the new renewable energy technologies. Though costs are rapidly declining, generation from solar PV is still several times more costly than that from wind, hydro, or biogas. Thus, feed-in tariffs for solar PV are a lightning rod for critics of renewable energy.

In a previous report, ClearSky estimated that Ontario will install 3,000 megawatts of solar PV in the next five years. During the period studied in this report, ClearSky says Ontario will install a total of 6,000 megawatts of solar PV by 2021. For comparison, California is expected to have a total installed capacity of 800 megawatts and the U.S. 1,700 megawatts of solar PV by the end of 2010.

If ClearSky’s estimates become reality, Ontario will soon become the largest center of solar PV development in North America by a wide margin, and rival European countries, which are currently the leaders in solar generation.

More jobs from solar PV than coal or nuclear

The Green Energy Act was in part justified by the job-creation potential in Ontario’s industrial sector, which was hard hit by the collapse of North America’s auto manufacturers.

Implementation of the province’s feed-in tariff program by the Ontario Power Authority includes a controversial domestic content provision. In effect, a substantial portion of any solar system installed in Ontario must be manufactured in the province.

ClearSky’s summary suggests that this policy may in fact work as intended at creating new jobs. The report says solar PV creates 12 times more jobs than nuclear per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and 15 times more than coal.

More jobs per dollar invested

ClearSky calculates that while investment in solar PV results in 30 percent to 40 percent as much electricity as investment in conventional sources, the investment in solar PV pays dividends in job creation. According to ClearSky’s summary, investment in solar PV creates 2.4 to 6.4 times more jobs than a similar investment in conventional sources.

Ontario solar PV billion dollar market

At the current pace of development and with the limitations of a weak, antiquated grid in mind, ClearSky projects that between 2010 and 2015, Ontario’s burgeoning solar industry will attract nearly $7.8 billion (USD) in private capital.

Clean generation saves ratepayers 20 percent

On Oct. 17, 2010 the Ontario government announced a rebate of 10 percent on ratepayers’ electricity bills to compensate for what it calls the “Clean Energy Benefit” of the Green Energy Act. The rebate will be paid for from tax revenue.

In a posting on their website, “Why Ontario’s Clean Energy Benefit Makes Sense — Sort Of,” ClearSky argues that the rapid development of clean sources of generation to replace the existing coal-fired plants saves taxpayers money by eliminating coal’s social and environmental costs.

The posting has revised interest in a long-forgotten report on the cost of coal-fired generation. The 2005 report, Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation [PDF], tallied the then social cost of electricity from the province’s nuclear-powered and fossil-fired fleet of generators. The report says Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cost Ontario nearly $0.127 (USD) per kilowatt hour in environmental and social impacts.

According to ClearSky, new renewable generation under the Green Energy Act’s feed-in tariffs saves ratepayers the equivalent of 20 percent on their electricity bills. Thus, they reluctantly say, the province’s Clean Energy Benefit does appear justified and could be even higher.

While ClearSky’s market analysis won’t settle the debate on the future of Ontario’s electricity system, it clearly shows that the province is headed toward becoming a leader in renewable energy development, and especially in the creation of a solar PV industry.

Read the original article on Grist.

Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Power and Wind Energy Basics.

Provincial feed-in tariffs spurring community power

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has signed feed-in tariff contracts for 384 megawatts of community-owned renewable energy projects in the Canadian province.

When completed, Ontario will have the largest installed base of community-owned renewable generation in North America, surpassing community ownership of renewable generation in Minnesota. Nearly one-third of the capacity will be built by Ontario’s aboriginal population.

Within a few years, Ontario will have the largest installation of community-owned renewable resources outside Denmark and Germany.

In an Oct. 12, 2010 report, OPA said that it has signed contracts for 264 megawatts of community-owned projects, and another 120 megawatts of projects owned by Ontario’s aboriginal peoples. The contracts represent 16 percent of Ontario’s 2,500 megawatts of feed-in tariff contracts to date.

No other jurisdiction in North America has made such a concerted effort as Ontario has to guarantee that a portion of the new renewable generating capacity to be built will be owned by its own citizens and native peoples through the province’s innovative feed-in tariff program.

This is in addition to Ontario’s microFIT program (a small renewable energy project program under the umbrella of feed-in tariff programs), which assures connection for homeowners and farmers wanting to generate electricity with solar panels for sale to the grid. There are 20,000 applications for microFIT contracts.

Until the Ontario program, Minnesota led North America in developing community-owned wind generation. In a recent analysis by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s John Farrell, there are 239 megawatts of community-owned projects operating and under construction in Minnesota, or about 10 percent of the 2,500 megawatts installed in the state.

Nearly all of Minnesota’s community-owned wind generation was installed under its Community-Based Energy Development (CBED) program. Minnesota’s CBED and its forerunner were the state’s version of an early feed-in tariff.

Feed-in tariff policy enables farmers, community groups, Native Americans, and Native Canadians to participate directly in the development of their own renewable resources, on an equal footing with commercial power producers.

One-half of all wind generation in Germany, or more than 12,000 megawatts, is owned by local investors. The percentage of local ownership is even higher in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Nova Scotia begins hearings Nov. 8, 2010 on the province’s community feed-in tariff program. The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will determine feed-in tariffs for large and small wind, biomass, and tidal power that will go into effect on April 4, 2011. Projects in the 100 megawatt program are set aside for Nova Scotians.

One prime example of a community-initiated project resulting from Ontario’s feed-in tariff program is the $55 million Pukwis project only 80 km (50 miles) north of downtown Toronto. Early next year, the Chippewas of Georgina Island will start construction on a 20 megawatt, ten-turbine project on the island in Lake Simcoe, the first phase of a 54 MW-development. The Pukwis community wind project will be the first aboriginal- and community-owned wind project in Canada and possibly in North America.

The Pukwis wind farm is made possible by the provincial feed-in tariff program, which includes a $0.015/kilowatt-hour bonus payment for projects owned by Ontario’s First Nations and Métis, and a $0.01/kilowatt-hour bonus payment for community-owned projects. The provincial program also pays $0.135/kilowatt-hour for all the generation from the wind turbines.

Pukwis, the Ojibwa word for whirlwind, is a joint venture between the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the Pukwis Energy Co-operative, which will sell shares to local investors in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, the principal Canadian advocate for community ownership of renewable generation, will be hosting its annual Community Power conference Nov. 14-17, 2010 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The conference is set to celebrate 100 years of community power in Ontario and includes a specific track for aboriginal project development like that of the Chippewas on Georgina Island.

Read the original article on Grist.

Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics, Second Edition and Wind Power, both available now.