More problems for the Green’s solar policy

The Green’s solar policy is reliant on subsidies…and as we know subsidies always blow out massively.

If you want to know how massively we only need look at a couple of examples…like Germany where the government is now faced with having to curtail the subsidies.

Two interesting stories that show, at least to me they do, that the subsidies offered to solar power were simply too large and too fast. The first is from Germany, where it looks like the European Union is going to take a very large bite out of a number of large companies. The second is from the US, where there?s a disturbing trend of solar cells failing after only a couple of years in the field.

Germany first: the basic story is that Germany has offered some of the world?s highest subsidies for solar PV installation. I work part of the time in eastern Germany and the place is festooned with them: in one of the climates least able to make efficient use of the technology. The method was that those installing PV were offered high and guaranteed rates for the electricity produced. These were paid for by inflating the electricity bills of users. The problem is that large industrial users simply could afford these rates (more like 28 euro cents per unit than the 10 US cents an American company might pay) for energy intensive processes. So, the German government created a system of opts out for large energy users: they would have to pay that extra to subsidise the solar installations.

That?s ludicrous, of course. You want all energy users to be paying for the installation of a new energy system (even if it is one as badly thought out as solar in Germany).

Germany is a silly place to push solar…I would have thought that New Zealand was too…given Aotearoa means “Land of the long white cloud”.

The other story comes from the US. It?s about the very shoddy quality of some of the solar panels that have?been installed:

All solar panels degrade and gradually generate less electricity over time. But a review of 30,000 installations in Europe by the German solar monitoring firm Meteocontrol found 80 percent were underperforming. Testing of six manufacturers? solar panels at two Spanish power plants by Enertis Solar in 2010 found defect rates as high as 34.5 percent.

The story here can be read two ways. There?s a lot of blaming Chinese companies in which case we might read it as just softening up people for the tariffs to be imposed upon Chinese solar panels. But this report is in the New York Times so it obviously couldn?t be something that politically nefarious. The other way is that shoddy production is an inevitable outcome of an industry expanding pell mell. Which would be an indication that we?re just trying to do this switch over to solar too fast. Which in itself would be an indication that we?ve set those subsidies too high: and also that it?s going to cost us a lot more than previously thought to replace those shoddily made components.

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