China, the world’s biggest electricity consumer, is figuring out how to capture a larger share of the solar-energy market without losing money.
The government will spend at least a year studying Europe’s system of paying above-market prices for solar power before deciding if there’s a better way to spur clean-energy plants across China, said Wu Dacheng, an adviser to national power regulators. The delay has stalled projects planned on Chinese soil by developers such as First Solar Inc. of the U.S.
“We need to learn from European countries like Germany” that pay subsidized rates to spark solar-panel installations, Wu, vice chairman of the Solar Photovoltaic Committee of China’s Renewable Energy Society, said in an interview.
Europe, which attracted more than $65 billion in solar plant investment in 2010, is providing lessons for China. Germany, the largest panel market, together with Spain and France carried out four unscheduled subsidy cuts in 2010, trying to slow a torrent of projects by developers and speculators.
China’s wait-and-see strategy on projects is part of a broader industrial plan to take a leading global role in harnessing energy from the sun. China is first focusing state support on its own equipment manufacturers. That helps them gain market share and cut prices, lowering the eventual cost of a nationwide solar construction program China plans for itself.
The Department of Energy’s new SunShot Initiative to make solar energy as cheap as coal has given fresh hope to industry enthusiasts. And it may even give life to a nearly dead effort in Congress to put solar panels and water heaters on 10 million of America’s roofs by 2020.
The 2010 legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hasn’t had much momentum since the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved it in July, and November’s Republican gains in Congress has not helped the measure along. But experts say Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s SunShot Initiative may give the Ten Million Solar Roof Act new political legs.
Shayle Kann, managing director of solar research at GTM Research, said that the DOE plan could make the Sanders’ bill more politically palatable, because it would drive down the cost of solar installations. The legislation aims to finance the installation of up to 40,000 megawatts of new solar energy.
“These are two parallel but distinct programs. They could play together very well because “” to the extent that the SunShot initiative is successful “” it will lower the [financial] incentives that are required per project for the Ten Million Solar Roof Act,” he told SolveClimate News.
“Any program designed at reducing the cost of solar installations will be a service to any deployment program by lowering costs” to the government, Kann said.
Jared Blanton, a spokesperson for the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said that the solar energy plans are aligned because “they both are focused on removing needless regulatory barriers that prevent Americans from going solar.”
Take it from a reporter who covers wind energy: The issues get thorny.
Few people are against wind energy, in theory, but the placement of giant turbines has raised concerns about bird and bat deaths, noise, and, of course, aesthetics.
New Englanders can now try to understand the issues through the New England Wind Energy Education project, an eight-part webinar series and an in-person conference this spring. The most recent webinar was on shadow flicker, the alternating changes in light caused by rotating blades.
For more information about the webinar, to sign up for notifications, or to view a listing, go to www.windpoweringamerica.gov/newengland/neweep.
Funded by the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Initiative, the two-year project is designed to provide “objective information to allow informed decisions about proposed wind energy projects,” according to a news release. The agency stresses that the project is not industry-funded.
President Obama is expected to call on Congress Monday to eliminate billions of dollars in oil industry tax breaks, while setting aside money for his top clean-energy policy priorities.
Obama will send his fiscal year 2012 budget request to Congress on Monday. The budget comes as Republicans are calling for massive cuts in spending, unveiling a proposal this week to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year that would cut $100 billion in spending when compared to Obama’s 2011 budget request.
Obama’s 2012 budget request will also make major budget cuts. It will freeze domestic spending for he next five years and cut the deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next decade.
Obama’s budget request will call for eliminating a series of oil industry tax breaks. The Department of Energy estimates that such a repeal will save $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2012 and a total of $46.2 billion during the next decade.
But the proposal to eliminate oil tax breaks faces major opposition in Congress. Though Democrats have thrown their support behind the proposal, Republicans have said any attempt to revoke industry tax breaks could harm the economy and result in job losses. The president has long called for cutting the tax breaks, but Congress has not been able to muster the necessary support to pass such a proposal.
While Obama’s budget will be marked by major cuts, the administration will make a series of investments in clean energy. The budget request will include more than $8 billion for clean energy programs, including money for research and development.
Connie Hedegaard embodies the way the European Commission would like to be perceived in the 21st century.
Ms. Hedegaard, 50, leads the commission’s efforts on climate change, an issue with global resonance, and she is a confident and telegenic communicator, helping dislodge the commission’s image as a haven for graying politicians who settle fights over fish quotas.
She sums up her job as keeping the European Union “in the front-running position when it comes to being the most energy-efficient, climate-friendly region in the world.”
“That is not a small ambition, I know,” she said.
She has had a challenging start since taking office a year ago.
The realities of projecting influence at a time when economic and political power has ebbed away from Europe, and of managing an unwieldy system for trading emissions among 27 nations, quickly caught up with her.
Even before she took office, she was reeling from the failures of the Union to participate in the initial drafting of a nonbinding agreement at a U.N. conference in Copenhagen and to persuade other nations to set a date for reaching a global deal limiting greenhouse gases.
Ms. Hedegaard, a former television news anchor and a political conservative who was Denmark’s climate and energy minister, started the conference as its president. But she aroused the mistrust of some negotiators who regarded her as too supportive of the industrialized world.
The Obama administration will call for deep cuts in the headquarters staff of the Energy Department next week but will seek $8 billion in investments in the research, development and deployment of what it calls “clean energy technology programs.”
Energy Secretary Steven Chu posted a note to “colleagues” on the department’s blog site Friday listing about $600 million in cuts, saying that the department will take “responsible steps to cut wasteful spending and reduce expenses.”
According to Chu’s note, the budget to be unveiled next week will propose cutting spending on department management by nearly 13 percent, slashing the office of fossil fuel budget by 45 percent by zeroing out four programs, and cutting a hydrogen technology program by 41 percent. It will shrink the department’s vehicle fleet by 35 percent in the next three years and eliminate funding for two relatively small projects at two national laboratories.
The $600 million in program cuts would be felt deeply in those sections of the department, but the overall budget request last year was $28.4 billion, not including funds it allocated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Chu did not say what the total budget request would be this year.