Saturday, April 1, 2017

EERE - The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Wapo article about EERE

Sounds bad, but I'm not sure these cuts are all that terrible. And despite the headline, the proof that they "helped make solar power affordable" is non-existent. American-made solar panels generally cost from 80¢ to $1 per watt (W) – about 10-30¢ more per watt than imported panels. And where do most of the panels installed in the US come from? China, of course.

So, the prices on installed systems have come down because of innovations in manufacturing made by China and resulting competition from China. We are already way behind.

Beyond that, any innovations that might arise from US government-sponsored research will go directly to US manufacturers. Will they ever pass the savings on to consumers without the competition from China forcing them to do so? Not likely.

So, what have we been getting for our investment so far? I don't see anything practical -- and I looked. 

While taxpayer-funded researchers are trying to make solar more affordable, many states run by Republicans and business interests are doing everything they can to make it less affordable. They protect the power companies (and those who supply the fuels they use to generate power) through eliminating or sharply reducing net-metering payments for electricity generated. 

Some states will soon require you to sell all electricity generated by your panels to the power company for next to nothing and then buy all your power at a premium from them. That's called "buy all; sell all" and many other states will adopt it after the first few get away with it. Florida, looking ahead to the impact of future improvements in battery storage technology is already requiring a connection to the grid to make a house "habitable" even if you have enough storage capacity so that you don't need a connection to the grid. In other words, Republicans are busy making solar much less affordable for homeowners by dramatically increasing, if not completely eliminating the pay-back time.

Why invest a lot in alternative energy research, when Republicans are already busy screwing Americans out of the benefits of existing technology and eliminating the EPA? If they could charge us for the air we need to breathe, they would. Fix the politics first, and the rest will follow.

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