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Discussion > Can solar PV be profitable?

Until now I had the belief that solar photovoltaic power generation at industrial scale was only possible thanks to large subsidies, and that the solar power industry was a black hole for taxpayer money (though a smaller one than wind). This is the European case, at least.

Then I was surprised to learn of the installation of a new 141 MW solar plant in an unsubsidized power market, and of many more projects to come. e.g here or here.

Solar is not noisy and is more reliable than wind in many regions, such as this project in Atacama. Certainly energy prices are very high in Chile. While in Europe they range between 50 and 90 US$ per MWh in Chile the range is from 90 in a normal year to over 200 US$ MWh in a dry year (for lack of hydropower).

The lack of subsidies may be also an incentive for increasing efficiency and more research into better performing solar power generation, which is not bad. The geopolitics of solar power are way better than those of most oil and non-fracking gas, and its operation is less polluting. I mean real pollution (SOx, etc.), not imaginary pollution (CO2).

It would be interesting to know the opinion of those experts among you.

Jul 2, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Registered CommenterPatagon

It depends where the panels are installed. It depends how much you pay for the panels. At the moment panels are cheap because China heavily subsidised production, expecting a huge demand. When the demand waned, western producers were decimated by the competition and even Chinese producers went under. Like many things, solar power has to suit the circumstances. It might seem sensible to stick solar panels in deserts but 1) is there any demand for the electricity nearby, 2) how will the panels weather? Sand is notorious for scratching surfaces and an opaque panel is no good. A great many solar installations are relatively new. It will be interesting to see how Germany's solar energy output fares as the panels age/get dirty/faulty. Will there be mountains of scrap panels in a few years?

Even before subsidies, solar panels eventually recouped their cost if you lived in the house long enough but it was a lot of effort for only tiny benefits to the environment. The benefit to the householder is diminished if they take out a loan to pay for it. Many of the Spanish solar schemes are suffering because they took out loans based on the good prospects of healthy subsidies. If they sign up to the Green Deal or let a company install the panels for free, they are in deep trouble when they come to sell the property.

For individuals solar might be a good idea, for national grids they are more of a problem. Since we need electricity 24/7 and panels don't supply that, there is a need for continuous back up. If the price drops because a load of solar power churns out electricity whether you want it or not, the conventional power eventually becomes too costly to maintain. Suppliers demand more money or else they'll leave us to our intermittent renewables.

So the prices go up for all forms of generation and those who are too poor to generate their own pay for it. So if you can afford a solar system outright, you have the right space for them and you don't care about the poor - go for it.

Jul 2, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Intermittency is definitely a weak point. The case I mention above is in the Atacama region, a desert with very high insolation, and the main clients will be mining operations, so I guess they will need most of the energy during daylight. In this case it looks potentially profitable without subsidies, will it be applicable anywhere else?

Jul 2, 2014 at 6:06 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

I'm far from being an expert but as I understand it solar is a viable power source where the supply of raw material (sunshine) is reliably available for the time when the power is needed or where there is some way to store any excess generated. This applies mainly where the consumer will be in a position to generate the power and control his use of the power.
So there is no problem with the instance you quote. On the other hand, as TinyCO2 points out, where you need electricity 24/7 the only economic and reliable way to produce it is with a raw material that is available 24/7 either "on tap" (gas, nuclear) or by using stored reserves (stockpiled coal). Neither wind nor solar nor tide fill this bill and never can.
Relying to any extent on "renewables" is condemning the consumer to either needlessly expensive electricity or unpredictable power outages.
The day will come when this simple message will get through to the householder and very shortly thereafter will get through to the politicians.

Jul 2, 2014 at 6:23 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Patagon, you answered your own question - in the second paragraph. Clearly solar PV can be profitable. And as electricity demand typically goes up when the sun is shining, especially in places that need air conditioning, it seems like a perfect solution. It sucks at night of course, but that is ok as we have conventional power supplies for then.

Oh and ignore the idea that installing PV is somehow bad for the poor. If I use 6KWh daily and decide to economize by halving my use I reduce grid demand by 3KWh. If I instead install PV to provide me with 3KWh and don't economize I also reduce grid demand by half. Show me the difference to "the poor". The poor have so many disadvantages in our societies that my installing PV doesn't even register.

Jul 2, 2014 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Admittedly the poor suffer most where there are subsidies but solar panels reduce the efficiency of energy sources like gas. Some of the costs of power stations are incurred regardless of whether they are idling or running full load. All power generators want their stations running as much as possible. If they’re forced to disconnect whenever the solar is generating (and the solar can’t be controlled) then they will want to be compensated for not getting paid to generate. You could drive the price down but the generators will just close stations or mothball them until you lose your nerve (see UK government). They certainly won’t build new ones because the capital investment is huge.

So not only does everyone have to pay for the solar generation, they have to pay for a certain amount of gas generation that isn’t generated too.

Jul 2, 2014 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Also, generators don’t get as much as users pay so if thing were like the open grid, you might generate the same amount as you use but you should still pay a fee for the difference between grid price and user price. If you don’t pay the difference then you are effectively getting a subsidy.

Jul 2, 2014 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I don't think that addresses my point. You implied that it would be immoral for Patagon to install PV ("...and you don't care about the poor - go for it."). By your logic it is immoral for him and us all to cut grid energy use at all and in fact it would be better if we all increased it purposefully. That is clearly nonsense - it would be better just to give money directly to the poor, as we indeed do in most developed countries.

As for the costs of running the other generators etc, I am unconvinced. Demand varies greatly across the day and so it stands to reason that many generators run for just part of the day. That is why peak power is typically expensive - to pay for the plant that is idle most of the time. Adding solar or reducing demand plays into that and *will* affect the most expensive generators hardest, but if you are telling me that my reducing my demand or my company's demand at peak times is doing harm somehow then you are just wrong, however you spin it. And equally how can it be wrong for me to shift demand away from peak hours, cut energy use or install PV on my factory roof to cover my needs (because the poor...). It is my roof.

As I see it, the company buying solar referenced by Patagon knows its business. It may be a local monopoly (many in the US are) or it may be competitive but either way it probably knows what its costs are and likes the sound of a 20 year fixed price source of juice. Could it get a 20 year fixed price contract from a gas turbine?

I'm not saying solar is perfect for all purposes and I don't know the details of the deal above - it could for example be that the buyer is forced to get a proportion of its power from renewable sources, in which case the deal would not be as merit based as it might seem. But PV is getting cheaper and cheaper and we'll see ever more of it in sunny places as that continues. Bring it on. It is not in the nature of free market economies to protect incumbent operators from change - that is more associated with command economies and crony capitalism. Neither is it in their nature to operate for the benefit of marginal consumers (the poor). It is tough sometimes but that is just the way it is.

Jul 2, 2014 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

The Atacama would seem to be the ideal place for unsubsidised profitable low impact solar. Situated 18'-30' S very low rainfall and little natural flora and fauna, high local energy costs and little infrastructure (allegedly in both cases). If it's not possible to at least break even supplying to an industrial single shift operator user there then it won't be possible elsewhere. I would guess the local employees either have little or no electricity for non-working hours or it is supplied from the grid. The Atacama must have about 8 hours useful sun everyday all year which makes back up unnecessary for our industrial user other than for equipment failure.

I think we can agree that the same isn't the case in Northern Europe for instance Norway and Scotland. But hydro is a viable source in these two countries. Both industry and people need power 365 days a year, people need at least some power 24 hours per day. My view is that unpredictable intermittent power will never be truly viable for people, but as in all things there is room for all solutions. The big mistake is creating a grid which is not fit for purpose for the population. If industry can sort out a 100% independent in all senses solution why stop them? So far there is no "renewable" power source which doesn't require a backup of similar output and cost, nobody in their right mind would consider buying power from two suppliers simultaneously if both had standing charges and also required paying for generation whether used or not; would they?

This brings me onto impact, I have heard it claimed that solar PV in the UK doesn't prevent the use of the land for grazing animals. Surely the panels remove the light and create shade. In my garden in areas of permanent or semi-permanent shade the only thing that grows is moss, nothing much worthwhile grows at ground level in the woods and forests I frequent so I can't see how large PV installations don't prevent grazing of animals. However nature being what it is climbing plants, ivy and bramble, and trees must be controlled as they have the potential to overwhelm the panels. By a combination of chemical and manual methods, no different from any other crop in both respects.

Jul 3, 2014 at 7:43 AM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

If solar panels were free of subsidy then there wouldn't be a problem but most places that can afford panels are also places where subsidies are offered.

Why subsidies are bad for the poor:-

Why solar is wrong for northern latitudes:-

Why panels are 'cheap'

Jul 3, 2014 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Solar panels subsidies? Ha! Tell me something that is *really* free of subsidies. The thing about solar subsidies is that we can see them. But subsidy is part of our everyday experience. How many in Europe could afford their extensive health and social insurance if they had to pay for it? Or their education? Or anything else much. There are subsidies spread right across our economies. Many are unseen and hence not noticed or controversial but look at the tax codes, all the tax breaks, exemptions and special cases that pollute it in any country. These are all subsidies, just by another name. I don't believe any energy source is free of them so picking on solar because you can see them is partial at best.

As for your links, I can see you are a renewable buff. Solar clearly interests you more than it does most people. So here's the question. I have not heard of those who represent the poor in Germany complaining about their energy transformation (unions, social organisations, charities), quite the contrary. Can you explain that if the poor are suffering from solar subsidies?

My impression is that reductions in the price of solar has a lot to do with the subsidies offered by European governments. I see that as a positive thing, allowing people everywhere to benefit and as I said it seems to be thought well of by the Germans public. Is their society or economy suffering as a result? Hardly, it would seem. There is nothing like mass production and competition between suppliers to drive innovation and progress and the subsidies have been behind all of that.

Like I said, I don't hold up solar as a panacea but it works, it is getting cheaper and it is clean. I'm for it.

Jul 3, 2014 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff


The sums are quite simple, those on a lower than average income tend to pay a higher percentage of their income on energy and food. Therefore anything which increases the cost of energy has a greater impact on those on low incomes, as rising energy costs also cause the cost of everything else to rise the cost of food will increase. This will cause a greater impact on those on low incomes than any other group. Much of the subsidy on solar electricity is in the form of higher prices for the supplier which are passed on to the consumer. There will be exceptions to this, energy costs will have a minor impact on the homeless, not that that is a good thing. Politicians and greens don't really care about the poor and deprived.

Other subsidies you talk about are in the form of tax on incomes and spending for the most part, governments can ensure that the tax burden is weighted to middle and higher earners. The higher earners have a better chance of tax avoidance than those on middle incomes. Taxation is a complex issue as comparing the UK and France shows.

If by clean you mean reduced CO2 emissions then I'm not sure that either wind, solar or both achieve that; I read a report the other day that American use of shale gas has "saved" more CO2 than the global installed wind and solar.

Jul 3, 2014 at 11:22 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

Raff, while the reasons may be many, people and corporations in Germany are complaining about high energy costs. The partial substituting of wind and solar for traditional generation has not led to the promised land, and is now unravelling. For example, q-cells-bankruptcy-heralds-end-of-german-solar-cell-industry.

As is well publicised, Germany is now building about 20 or so extra lignite-fired power stations to stave off supply problems. Yes, that is also partly to cover for closing nuclear ones, another ill-advised political decision IMO. But that's their choice, though they may yet regret it or change it.

As to damaging the German economy, yes higher energy costs will damage it. And German industry does say so. And German industry gets listened to rather more than UK industry, not least because there is still rather more of it in Germany.

Digging holes in the ground and then filling them in again would also damage the economy. It is really a question of how many useless holes can be dug before the pain becomes unaffordable/unbearable . But as every accountant and auditor knows, you can often hide and prolong a lot of bad news by burying it amongst a lot of other data and hoping nobody looks too carefully.

Today the green activist approach is simply to counter-argue that traditional economic accountancy misses lots of external environmental costs. These costs are vague and undefined. But the environmentalist can be relied upon to supply their own definition which usually amounts to “It is whatever I say it is today.” But they seem able to understand traditional money well enough when it suits their purposes, even while using fossil fuelled vessels to assault oil drilling rigs.

I find their arguments disturbingly similar to Marxist/communist theologies: They claim to be acting on behalf of the people [referencing, inter-alia, the environment] but upon closer examination their activities are often found to be worse than useless.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Sandy/Michael the discussion has gone rather off topic - that being whether PV can be profitable. The answer is clearly in the affirmative, I think we can agree.

On some of your other points:

- Like I said, free market capitalism doesn't generally focus on marginal consumers such as the poor and deprived. We have welfare systems to support those in need. That is just the way it is. If you want it differently, vote for the left (or greens, who tend to be on the left) to change the nature of our societies. You are barking up the wrong tree if you think holding back technological change will help the poor.

- You could still answer me why those who represent the poor in Germany are not complaining about their energy transformation (unions, social organisations, charities).

- Solar not clean? Stick a panel in the sun and it generates electricity. You could sit and eat your breakfast next to it without noticing it. With any other traditional source of electricity you have to stay well away from the fuel and from the exhaust or waste products. Come on, it is really not difficult to recognize clean when you see it.

- Subsidies go much deeper than personal tax. Tax breaks exist for all sorts of industries and purposes but they all make doing _something_ more profitable. Try removing them and someone will say that they cannot do business without them. In other words the need the subsidy relative to the no-break status quo. Some breaks might even be or once have been a good idea. Don't pretend they are not there.

- 20 lignite plants - can you list them? That doesn't sound right. There is overcapacity in the German network, the big companies are losing money and large numbers of planned plant have been cancelled.

- QCells was bought out and is still in business. There was overcapacity in the market but that is likely to disappear as more and more PV is installed. As we have seen that it can be profitable without subsidy, why do you put such effort into opposing it?

- Damage to the German economy? Show me something more that people moaning - people always moan. Which large economies are prospering more?

Jul 4, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Paying middle class money to stick solar panels on their roof has nothing to do with free market capitalism.

You may not know it Raf but the less electricity you use the more you pay per unit. Those on pre payment meters pay the most. Those who are already struggling to pay are also the least likely to be offered a good deal to swich suppliers.

Big German energy users have been protected from high energy costs by a method even the EU grumbles is unfair though the Germans aren't stupid enough to listen. When prices are high the first businesses to leave are the high energy users and they employ a disproportionate number of the lower earners and are usually located away from London. Not that I'm advocating proping up UK industry but we shouldn't knee cap it to make the well paid feel more environmentally friendly. Once driven out of the country we don't even stop using those high energy products we just ship them back in from somewhere else.

The money would have been better spent damp proofing and insulating homes and businesses for free, starting with the poorest properties (including rental).

Jul 4, 2014 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

If we are agreed that PV is subsidised in the UK and will continue to be for the foreseeable future then the same will apply in areas outside the tropics. Due to the volume of subsidised PV installations the installation start up costs are subsidised also. This means that niche applications can be profitable when in a free market they may have been marginal.

Have you visited the waste from the mining and manufacturing involved in PV production, and where do you think the power comes from when solar power is not peak, from midnight to 10am and from 2pm to midnight. We've been through this particular argument with Chandra.

Research how Germany deals with over production from renewables as this is what is causing the German grid major problems. From my research the German solution is to export the problem to Poland. You should prove the lignite power stations a myth as it is well documented.

If things don't sound right check them out for yourself, as nothing I say will convince you otherwise. Your statements are from opinion not factual when you can come up with references for your claims I might consider you more than the troll you appear to be.

Jul 4, 2014 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

You might follow up the information here

Jul 4, 2014 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

Lignite production in Germany

German energy costs

EU Electricity prices

I have made a single post but didn't think I had time, but in fact I did.

Jul 4, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

I agree that subsidy is undesirable in principle but I wanted you to recognise that subsidy is not unique to PV. Oil and gas production and distribution is subsidised, just in different ways. Farming is subsidised all around the world. Search for subsidy in most industries and you'll probably find them. Is that possible to dispute?

Your concern for the poor is admirable and I agree that subsidising improvements to living conditions and reductions in energy use might be an example of a good subsidy (although subsidising private landlords would give me pause).

Sandy, production of anything creates waste products. PV is not unique or special in that respect. And my factory operates during the day so I don't see why I should worry about the sun going in. My panels will largely cover my power costs for the next 20+ years. I make no apology for that. The best I can offer the poor is employment.

I don't see the relevance of German coal to the discussion, but, for what it is worth, I already saw your 'sourcewatch' link - which is why I questioned the claimed 20 new power stations. I count 6 in construction and 3 'applying for permits'. And those in construction started life in 2006-8 and often replace existing units. It doesn't seem from that that a new coal building boom is in prospect to me. If you or Michael think there are 20 then list them or give your "well publicised" sources - as it stands, I don't believe the number.

Solar may or may not make sense in cloudy countries, but the subsidies from Germany and elsewhere have created a solar industry. Solar is now cheap enough for installation in remote parts with high absolute poverty that have not been serviced before. Do you doubt that? Do you wish it were not so? Do you see it as something to be displeased about?

Jul 4, 2014 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

“Solar is now cheap enough for installation in remote parts with high absolute poverty that have not been serviced before.” Raf.

Solar panels are not affordable for most of those people too remote to connect to the grid. If they’re lucky, some charity or government will provide it for them. If they’re really lucky they’ll provide a battery or a generator so that things like refrigeration continue to work after dark. What is ‘cheap’ to you is cripplingly expensive to others. In 2012 the median annual salary across the globe was $1,225.

At one point the UK had no distributed power either. Industrialisation saw a lot of people move into towns and cities. That was where electricity was first generated and distributed. Utilities and services could be justified because of the concentration of people. With people and energy we could have manufacturing. Eventually the national prosperity saw utilities spread out to the more remote parts but even now, some places aren’t connected. The reason is the costs and losses the distances involve.

The ‘subsidy’ given to gas and oil are in the form of tax rebates. The gas and oil have brought us in massive amounts of money. Unlike solar. However, I have no problem with solar energy getting exactly the same subsidy. I don’t even have a particular problem with tax rebates being removed for fossil fuel companies.

Jul 4, 2014 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Operator Location MW Date Due Status
Trianel Lunen 750 2013 In Trial
EnBW Karlsruhe 874 2013 In Construction
GDF Wilhelmshaven 800 2013 In Construction
Steag Duisberg 725 2013 In Construction
E.ON Datteln 1055 2013 In Construction
RWE Hamm 1600 2013 In Construction
Vattenfall Hamburg 1640 2014 In Construction
GKM Mannheim 911 2015 In Construction
MIBRAG Profen 660 2020 A/W Approval
RWE Niederaussem 1100 n/a A/W Approval
GETEC Buttel 800 n/a A/W Approval
Dow Stade 840 n/a A/W Approval

I don't know if that icludes two reported opened in 2012 (again I am speaking from memory). I accept that is not twenty.
Perhaps I had mentally included refurbishments of existing coal stations which Reuters listed as 17 here

That report also lists 29 gas fired stations in construction or modernisation. I think it is fair to say that demonstrates Germany is planning to continue using fossil fuels on a large or even increased scale.

I certainly have no objection to promoting solar in remote sunny off-grid locations in, say, Africa. But it is still not sufficient for functioning industrial economies such as we enjoy in Europe. I have also seen many small roadside installations in the USA, presumably because it is considered cost effective. Again, fine for powering road signs and emergency telephones in sunny locations but I can't see many other demands being met. If solar cells were cheaper than wallpaper it doesn't solve the basic problem of having significant power available when needed at night, in winter months, and climates at mid-to-high latitudes.

Jul 5, 2014 at 3:08 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Michael, so yes there are some in construction, but not 20. And you'll no doubt have noted that they were planned long ago (2006-8ish) before the recent wave of solar put coal and gas generation under such pressure. So the power companies got things wrong (as I think they admit). As far as I am aware, gas use for electricity in Germany is declining because it is too expensive. I'm not chasing down those 29 to see whether they are real, planned long ago, abandoned or whatever - the story you gave for coal vs the reality tells me where it is likely to lead ;-) But there is anyway no doubt about Germany using fossil fuels for a long time. I've read of nobody suggesting that the transition is going to be overnight.

As to your doubts about solar's practicability, a square of hot desert of side 100km (10,000 km^2) used for solar PV or other solar could provide all US needs on a purely KWh basis. Just 3% of Arizona for example (and of course it need not be one block). You complain that this is no use because we need power when the sun doesn't shine. But that shows a very low opinion of our ability to innovate. Do you really think it is an insuperable problem? How many ways in which electricity can be stored or demand can be shifted are being researched and developed? And if they are inefficient, just add some more PV.

TinyCO2, when you say that solar panels are not affordable for people too remote for grid connection you are making two errors. One is that you are holding solar to different standards to other sources of power. NO large scale installation is affordable for a community at the edge of existence. But for such a community solar has advantages over other power sources in that it is easy to install and maintain and it requires no fuel. It also makes no noise and creates no fumes, although these may be of lesser importance. Clearly without storage solar doesn't offer 24h power, but that, I think is your second error. For a community with no electricity, a little makes a big difference. Try going camping on a dark night without a torch and you'll perhaps see what I mean. You are thinking in rich-world terms. A nice fridge, lights, washing machines etc. But although desirable, you should think smaller. And poor people do not lack money entirely. I read that an estimated $38 billion is spent annually on kerosene for lighting by the people in poverty. Solar lamps could replace that expenditure.

Thanks for the lesson in industrial history by the way. I learned something new - I had thought that Shakespeare wrote his plays under tungsten lights....

That some subsidies given to gas and oil are in the form of tax rebates is of course true. If they make doing business cheaper they are subsidies not 'subsidies'. But you forget all of the others. An idea of a similar solar subsidy would be for Europe to overthrow a government in north Africa, install a puppet ruler and grab 10,000km^2 of desert (quite a small slice really) for use as a solar farm. Then maintain a military presence in the country for the indefinite future to protect your newly installed friends. You could always use the risk of WMD being present as a pretext for the overthrow, if you needed legitimacy...

Jul 5, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

You missed the point Raff. Technology advanced because people came together and people came together because technology existed and could be powered. People went from isolated farming communities making woollen clothes to industrial communities making mass produced cotton. Thus the industrial revolution was born. In your scenario people will be forever stuck in their solar powered isolation. They will disproportionately impact upon nature. They will cut down trees and eat wildlife. They will have many kids to ensure they can keep scratching a living and have someone to care for them later in life. They will have to travel long distances to get the things we take for granted. For some that is a dream come true but for most of us it's a nightmare.

Countries do not have to stay in poverty. Several have already pulled themselves up and passed us. Those that hope to repeat that feat won't do it on solar power unless there's a darn good way of storing it. If you discourage poor countries from having coal power stations (note that COAL not oil) then those who might have migrated to the city to work, instead migrate to other countries. Those that stay isolated, tend to stay poor.

Mineral wealth can be detrimental to peace and prosperity, industrial wealth tends to be the opposite. When the guys at the top need their populations making stuff and consuming stuff their overall power is diminished.

There are a great many German coal plants planned (30?), some to replace old coal and some to replace nuclear. For a map see

Jul 5, 2014 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2, playing whack-a-mole with you is tedious. Michael claimed a "well publicised" 20 coal stations were being built, but on inspection it came down to half a dozen or so left over from a planning binge in 2006-8, with a few looking for approval. He accepts this, I think - see above. Now you come back with a link to WUWT, hardly a source that has any credibility, and a picture that purports to show oodles of new coal works in progress. It looks authoritative, supposedly coming from BUND (FOE Germany). But visit the BUND site and you find this:

Even if you don't read German, all those red crosses should tell you something. Who do you think is more likely to be right, WUWT quoting BUND or BUND themselves? Will you read and digest the image please so that next time you discuss it with someone you don't trot out the same "well discussed" misdirection.

Your discussion of solar is equally tedious. You could try acknowledging that subsidies for fossil fuels go far beyond tax policy - it would be good for you. Solar can be profitable and it can improve the lives of off grid people everywhere, now. It does not have to be exclusive - other sources can share the space. I never said any different. Solar can even power the whole world, as discussed above, with a lot of investment and some ingenuity and innovation. It won't do it over night but neither is this vision impossible. Oil, gas and coal will continue to power large parts of the world for the foreseeable future, but the future is likely to be increasingly solar.

Jul 6, 2014 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

You could try acknowledging that subsidies for fossil fuels go far beyond tax policy - it would be good for you.
Facts, instead of rhetoric, would be a fine thing, Chandra's cousin.

The fact is, without the company tax and taxes paid by consumers of fossil fuel based energy, all Western governments would be broke. To leave that out of any equation,however spurious (a lower tax rate is not a "subsidy") is just plain dishonest.

Solar energy costs governments and consumers money. Governments shell out direct subsidies, and consumers pay more to make up for its inherently more expensive mode of production.

Perhaps there are circumstances where large scale solar energy could be profitable in the real sense - i.e. standing on its own two feet without compulsory usage via RETs, direct grants from taxpayers and higher costs to consumers. Nobody would object to that. But real world examples are hard to find, and even if you have found one, it is outnumbered by countervailing cases everywhere else it has been tried.

Jul 6, 2014 at 1:36 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna