President Trump set the stage for a battle with some of America’s biggest trading partners by approving new solar panel tariffs, and it quickly snowballed into much more. Let’s look at the hype surrounding Trump’s developing trade-spat, the international players involved, which sectors it will impact, and what the consequences may be.Continue reading
The bankrupt American solar panel manufacturer Suniva is requesting an emergency tariff on imported solar panels to protect their business from cheaper panels made elsewhere. What would the Suniva petition mean to the rest of the solar industry if these trade protections are put in place?
On May 25th, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it had initiated a safeguard investigation into the manufacture and import of solar cells. Triggered by the petition filed on behalf of Suniva, the investigation could lead to emergency tariffs on imported solar panels. That would mean higher prices for American solar buyers and a potentially chilling effect on solar development.
Without getting into too many of the nitty gritty details, energy subsidies exist in order to help get new or struggling technologies off the ground and able to compete on their own, and solar power subsidies are no exception. The reason new technologies need help is simple: money.
According to a recent study, energy subsidies have been around since at least 1789, when our country placed a tariff on the selling of any British coal entering America. Since that time, federal money has flowed to industries such as coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, and renewable energy.
You get quotes, choose an installation company, and get a brand new solar system installed on your roof! Your system is producing great and is covering almost all of your energy use. Not too bad!
Everything is going fine until a few years later, when you notice that your neighbor’s trees are starting to get a little big and are shading one or two of your solar panels on your roof. No big deal, you think, it’s just a little bit of shade.
A couple more years go by and you notice that even more of your panels are shaded. Worse yet, you’ve started to notice that your monthly energy production is less than previous years.
What do you do? You pay your neighbor a friendly visit, explain the situation, and ask them to trim their trees back. They don’t really like that idea and refuse immediately? They planted the trees themselves and have grown attached, so they don’t want to cut any down.Continue reading
Carbon tax is any kind of tax intended to make carbon emitters pay for the damage they cause to the environment by burning fossil fuels.
Cap and trade is a government initiative where “cap” puts a limit on the amount of carbon that is allowed to be emitted by companies, whereas “trade” refers to the process where companies can trade with their allowances in order to incentivize the reduction of pollution.
I was one of those arguing with reluctant Democrats who were convinced that cap-and-trade was “just a giveaway to polluters” and of course Republicans sneered that carbon taxes were “the equivalent of the medieval “penance.”
The guidelines are published by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a group of policymakers who collect and analyze renewable energy data and work to expand consumer access to clean energy. They also lead national efforts to standardize training and credentialing for the clean-energy workforce using a system of best practices and standards. Part of their work is to “identify, define and promote clean energy best practices for states, municipalities, utilities and industries, which ultimately shapes the local, regional and national energy landscape.” To that end, they release regular publications to guide decisions made at the state and local level regarding renewable energy.
Decoupling a utility’s revenue from its total sales is intended to solve a “perverse incentive” that reduces utility motivation to increase energy efficiency.
As part of the American Recovery and Investment Act in 2009, states were invited to compete for $3 billion in Energy Efficiency Program funds to encourage utilities to incentivize reduction in electricity demand. Governors had to verify to the DOE that the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) would decouple the utilities’ revenue from profits.
In 2015, the first evidence of the Beijing government’s determination to reduce carbon emissions may have been seen globally, as it continued an unprecedented increase in carbon-free energy substitutions and cut coal use by a full third in just a year.