Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity

Dear Ecademists,

John Farrell, Director, Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities, ILSR, wrote on The Huffington Post that the campaign energy debate is missing the biggest opportunity.

He wrote:

While Republican presidential candidates lash at each other and the president over gas prices, they ignore what may be the most promising and startling part of our energy future: an abundance of cheap solar power. Within the next decade, 100 million Americans in the nation's largest cities will be able to get cheaper electricity from their own rooftop -- without subsidies -- than from their electric utility, according to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

In three years, the solar epidemic will reach New York, due to a combination of solar availability and sky-high electricity prices. The City University of New York estimates that enough suitable rooftop space exists for solar panels to power half the city during times of peak electricity use.

Many residents and businesses will own these rooftop solar generators, and that changes everything. Electricity consumers become producers, energy costs become economic benefits, and ambivalence about energy becomes certainty about clean energy. It's already happened in Germany, where half the country's wind and solar power -- the most in the world, per capita -- is locally-owned, generating strong political support for more renewable energy. New York City is uniquely suited to this energy democracy because it already gets 80 percent of its electricity locally, mostly from dirty, utility-owned fossil fuel power plants.

The solar rooftop revolution is not inevitable. Roadblocks must be removed, such as oversized permitting fees and delays that local governments impose or punitive fees and limits that utilities place on local solar generation.

At the national level, Congress must recognize that the cheap solar epidemic won't reach all cities simultaneously. Incentives for solar should phase out intelligently, expiring for the frontrunners (like New York) without jeopardizing the opportunity for the latecomers (like Minneapolis or Detroit).

Congress should also shift away from using tax credits for solar, because as much as half of taxpayers' money goes -- not to solar power plants -- but to the middle men who funnel it to large corporations and wealthy households. It also leaves out solar built by community institutions -- cooperatives, schools, or cities -- that can't use tax credits.

Solar policies should encourage local ownership and energy democracy, like the poorly named but highly successful feed-in tariff. Used by dozens of countries and several U.S. states, the policy requires utilities to offer a long-term contract to generators of renewable electricity. The flexible tariff can replace inefficient tax credits and adjust for economic factors in each state or region.

The solar revolution has been a long time coming. Ten years ago, solar powered a few thousand homes and cost five times more than grid electricity. In 2011 alone, enough solar was installed in the U.S. to power nearly a half million homes because of improving economics. Solar still supplies a small fraction of American electricity needs, but its growth is exponential.

Policy makers must act now to keep the solar revolution alive, because utilities have another vision. Collectively, they plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on last century's electric system -- connecting distant and dirty power plants to cities hundreds of miles away via new high-voltage transmission lines -- just as a local solar revolution supplants it. If they succeed, the ill-fated investment will give their companies, shareholders, and customers an economic interest in delaying the deployment of economically competitive solar power.

This revolution is no different from others in history. Utilities won't willingly cede control of the electric grid. But the rise of local solar threatens to overturn their century-old paradigm in a decade and Americans would be wise to seize this energy democracy opportunity.

Solar energy will become base-load energy thanks to hybrid power plants with a combination of water, hydrogen and synthetic gas!

Not only will it produce electricity but also free heat for housing and free hydrogen for mobility but even clean, optimally filtered water will be an outcome of such solar hybrid power plants. It's about high-temperature solar chemistry for converting solar heat to generate hydrogen that can power our mobility and during the night, continue to generate base-load electricity at literally no cost.

Such hybrid high-temperature solar, water, hydrogen, syngas power plants could generate substantial sources of revenue, generate electricity at around three US cents per kWh, provide us with heat at no cost, clean water and hydrogen to fuel our cars!

What do you think?

Is the US 2012 presidential campaign energy debate missing the biggest opportunity?

Please feel free to comment!

Have a great and happy Friday!


- Lucas

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jordan miguel


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Hopefully, in the near future, every people will be benefited from several renewable energy resource ideas, we are not too far from that reality as time is really going fast. However, why we need to wait for that long time, will it be not late for us to achieve that goal? There are various sustainable resources we can do now, but why the government is not supporting it. There are biogas, biofuels and other biosolid products, we can convert manure to energy, landfill to methane, so why we aren't focusing on this ideas, wherein it is a sustainable resources that we are not only benefited from it, but we can also help the environment.


Karl Waelti


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

In Asia it is not yet popular. Building owners still feel that it is expensive. Produce hot water by solar energy is quite known but to produce electricity is still far away, because storage by batteries is very expensive and electrical companies do not give credit for electricity produced. In South East Asia the sun is very strong and I am sure they are missing out on opportunities too.


Stephanie Gleichsner


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

I'm not sure they are missing the biggest opportunity....the collective 'we' are working towards it. I think the majority will support it when more about it is known after further testing. Right now, I think the majority is mainly concerned with the global economic condition. Best, Stephanie


Eric Sutherland


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Hi Lucas, Yes in answering your question and politics is about who is backing them in the US and what are their interests. LNG is another area that is getting US Government backing and GE is looking to exploit it. Regards Eric


N Bhashyam


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

It is political expediency and vested interest which is resisting recourse to green and environmentally friendly sources of energy ..While sources of energy like coal,oil, etc are known to be limited, solar energy will last till the life time of the solar system .I feel there could be no better dependable source . N BHashyam


Nikolay Kryachkov


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

And they will enjoy the life under the sun without industry ... :)




Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Dear Lucas Good Question but.... The whole thing is a big scramble. We scientist know that the answer for the future energy is not the sun neither the wind but spliting THORIUM instead of URANIUM which is totally safe. on this moment there is no interest from " Big Business" because Thorium is available in huge quantities in nearly every country. India is the first country which will start up an energy facility on Thorium probably still this year. Guy Prof. Guy Van Elsacker Dr.Sc.


Strashimir Yosifov


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Dear Lucas, It is obvious that the solar energy is very promising. And as more it is used as more its price should drop since largely manufactured equipment tends to attend lower cost. We have already seen many examples into the electronics. So it's all a question of time. Of course if the subject was exploited in the US 2012 presidential campaign debate and if a fan of the solar energy would be elected as President then this would greatly contribute to the acceleration of its adoption. Regards, Strashimir


Gordon Wheaton


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Good and interesting blog Lucas Regards Gordon


Malcolm Maxwell


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

You always come up with interesting stuff Lucas! I think that at the moment solar power needs a lot more development in that providing hot water is a great start (and a legal requirement on new build in Spain), but the solar cells need to be a lot more efficient at harnessing the energy from the sun. Hydrogen power for vehicles has a great future but will no doubt upset the oil producers!


Lucas Wyrsch


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Dear Alan, Thank you so much for your message and for sharing! Yes, it will happen as you can see from this title: Hybrid Wind Power Plant Now Supplying Green Hydrogen to Fuel Cell Vehicles in Berlin It's not about natural gas, it's about synthetic gas that will be created through a high temperature solar chemistry process. The protoype in Prenslau that will generate base load wind energy, is already in operation: The Enertrag-operated wind-hydrogen hybrid power plant at Prenzlau has begun delivering clean hydrogen to a Total hydrogen filling station in Berlin. This will be used in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) operating in Berlin under the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP), with the first fill having taken place on Wednesday. At the hybrid power plant, electricity from wind power is used in electrolysers to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, hence no carbon dioxide emissions are generated during the production of the hydrogen fuel. The FCEVs using the hydrogen also have zero emissions at the tailpipe, producing only water vapour. Filling of a vehicle with hydrogen only takes a few minutes and each fill can last for as much as 500 km, depending on the FCEV model. The plant is located about 95 km north of Berlin and has been operating since October last year. It is a collaboration between Enertrag, DB Energie, Vattenfall and Total Germany, integrating 6 MW wind turbines with electrolysers, biogas and a combined heat and power (CHP) plant. There are currently more than 50 FCEVs in operation in Berlin. Green hydrogen from the hybrid plant is also earmarked for use in FCEVs in Hamburg and at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport from June this year. As far as I know, the US Energy Ministry operates a similar power plant but uses water instead of wind and can deliver electricity at a kWh price of around three US cents! This will introduce the end of the commercial use of nuclear power and create sustainable energy for all! This also means a global shift from capitalism for the very few to capitalism for the many! We start a new era! Have a great and happy Friday! Best Lucas


Andrew Robinson


Is Campaign Energy Debate Missing the Biggest Opportunity?

Thats a great piece of forward thinking, but will it happen ? Natural gas from shale looks like becoming a major source of energy both in the USA and here in Europe can solar surpass the convenience and low cost? Solar still needs to develop further to become worth the investment for most.