Posts tagged “subsidies”
Solar energy entrepreneur Jigar Shah took to the site Greentech Media to criticize U.S. energy policy leaders for failing to champion deploying today’s clean energy technologies. Shah’s focus on ways to better deploy competitive clean energy underscores the critical need to re-frame the clean energy debate in terms of innovation and have a healthy discussion on building better policy solutions for deployment that drive innovation and support the growing clean energy industry.
Assessing the Character of U.S. Energy Policy
According to ITIF’s Energy Innovation Tracker, the United States invested $68.3 billion in clean energy innovation (in addition to $35.6 billion in loan guarantees) since 2009, 67 percent of which went towards clean energy deployment policies. This included deploying existing technologies through Stimulus policies like the loan guarantee program, energy efficiency grants, advanced manufacturing, and almost single handedly saving the solar and wind industry through the 1603 cash grant program at the height of the recession. Even in FY2012, which is absent Stimulus funding, 63 percent of the $14 billion in clean energy innovation investment went to deployment projects and programs.
This is Part 3 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1 defined “clean energy innovation” and Part 2 broke down the federal clean energy innovation budget.
Why Government Investment in Demonstration Projects Can Be Controversial
Transforming the U.S. (and global) energy system from fossil fuels to low-carbon technologies requires a healthy, publicly supported innovation ecosystem that invests in and supports research, development, demonstration, and deployment. But as discussed in Part 2 of this series, America’s energy innovation ecosystem is “hollowed out”, particularly because of reduced investment in technology demonstration projects.
At its very basic level, technology demonstration projects exhibit full-scale models of first-of-kind technologies and systems, as opposed to pilot projects (e.g. an ARPA-E project), which aim to simply prove a technical idea. Demonstration projects aim to prove a technology at commercial scale.
Clean energy demonstration projects are an area of extreme policy debate and controversy for two reasons.
First, clean energy demonstration projects are often capital-intensive projects that require significant investment and public-private collaboration, typically invoking considerable attention because of large budgets.
Second, clean energy demonstration projects are often viewed as too close to market and not an appropriate role of government investment. As such, it’s a turbulent area of clean energy innovation policy.
This is Part 2 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1, defining clean energy innovation, can be found here.
Clean energy innovation encompasses more than any one policy, whether it is R&D, tax incentives, regulation, or an economy-wide carbon price. Well-designed public investments impact the entire energy innovation ecosystem and fill gaps in next-generation technology development and deployment. Using data from the Energy Innovation Tracker, this post takes a top-line look at the United States’ portfolio of clean energy investments between 2009 and 2012.
The figure below details federal investments in energy innovation since FY2009, which are divided into ‘technology development’ and ‘technology deployment’ categories. In this case, technology development captures all investments in basic science, research and development, demonstration; technology deployment investments facilitate the installation and procurement of clean energy technologies in commercial markets, along with supporting investments in siting and permitting and training and education.
During the past four years, the balance between development and deployment has evolved dramatically, driven in part by increased procurement of emerging and commercial off-the-shelf energy technologies by the Department of Defense, as well as expanded deployment initiatives and tax incentives through the Department of Energy and the U.S. Treasury Department.
Petrobras: A Case Where ‘Fossil Fuel Subsidies’ are Bad for an Oil Company
When most people hear the phrase “fossil fuel subsidies” it conjures up images of governments giving their hard-earned tax dollars to already highly profitable oil companies. That’s what they have been conditioned to think by certain activists and politicians, and quite naturally this image evokes outrage.
On more than one occasion, I have pointed out that the vast majority of these so-called fossil fuel subsidies are really governments keeping fuel prices artificially low for consumers. This is a subsidy because consumers aren’t paying the true price of the fossil fuel, and the amount of the subsidy is the difference between what consumers pay and the market price. In most cases, the primary beneficiary of the subsidy is the consumer, and the secondary beneficiary is the fossil fuel company who gets to sell more product than they otherwise might.
Mike is a true clean energy entrepreneur, starting way back with a fuel cell start-up in the late 1990s, he’s run a venture capital firm, been an executive at a solar company and founded another solar company… and he’s voting for Mitt Romney.
Despite the federal government pumping $7.5 billion into the electric vehicle industry in the United States through 2019, overall national gasoline consumption is unlikely to be significantly affected, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Developed by the Bush administration in 2007 and initiated by the Obama administration in 2009, the program delivering the influx of cash is intended to help speed the growth of the fuel-efficient vehicle industry. The funds in question are made up largely by consumer tax credits that offer as much as $7,500 to consumers purchasing electric vehicles, followed by $2.4 billion in grants to electric battery manufacturers and $3.1 billion in loans intended to encourage automotive companies to increase production of electric vehicles. (See also: Will Range Anxiety Impact Electric Car Sales?)
With a nearly $1 billion government tax credit for the industry in doubt, the wind energy sector in the United States is on the brink of elimination, putting both thousands of jobs and the goal of promoting sustainable energy at risk.
In existence since 2008, the tax credit is aimed at helping startups in the wind energy industry to get on their feet, allowing them access to the funds that they need to be successful in the face of stiff competition from both other energy sources and undercutting by their Chinese counterparts. Those challenges have seen about 10,000 jobs disappear in the past four years as wind energy companies shrink in order to survive, making the potential elimination of the tax credit when it comes up for renewal again on December 31, 2012 a crisis-level concern for those invested in the industry. (See also: Do Government Subsidies Ever Pay Off?)
House Ag Committee Holds Hearings on Energy
On May 18, 2012 the House Committee on Agriculture held hearings on retaining Energy Title funding in the 2012 Farm Bill. Written testimonies and the video of the hearing are available at Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Energy and Forestry Programs.
The hearings were held as Congress prepares to write the next Farm Bill. The purpose of this particular hearing was to discuss the renewable energy development provisions of the current Farm Bill, whether particular programs are achieving the desired results, and whether specific programs should be continued.
There were some comments during the hearing that warrant further analysis. CONTINUE»
I often hear the comment — “If we only had an energy policy” — but what does that really mean? In this column I will provide three examples — originating with both Democrats and Republicans and impacting both renewable energy and fossil fuels — of how constantly shifting legislation makes it very difficult to plan and execute energy projects.
Imagine that you were considering buying a home. However, let’s say your income is inclined to wild swings and the mortgage interest deduction is only approved on a year by year basis. Perhaps it is allowed to expire on occasion. In a situation like this, you would be wise to be very conservative with your purchase, or to even forego the purchase altogether.
This is analogous to the way energy companies plan and execute projects. Decisions hinge on the economics of the project. These projects are large capital expenditures and they only pay out over many years. Thus, when considering the economics of a project, it is important to have a stable environment around regulations and tax policies. Failure on these two items makes for dysfunctional energy policy.
If you were to survey people and ask the question “Should we subsidize oil companies?” — the overwhelming majority would undoubtedly respond “No!” The notion that we are subsidizing oil companies generates outrage in many people, but in this article I will show why these subsidies aren’t going to go away any time soon. The reason may surprise you.
I decided to write this article following a a recent discussion in a CleanTech discussion group on the social networking site LinkedIn. The person who started the discussion asked the question “Why is it so Hard to Kill Fossil-Fuel Subsidies?” The discussion was prompted by a recent article by environmental activist and author Bill McKibben called Payola for the Most Profitable Corporations in History. In the article McKibben proposes “five rules of the road that should be applied to the fossil-fuel industry.” But McKibben himself demonstrated in his article that he doesn’t really understand the nature of these subsidies — and this sort of misunderstanding largely explains why so many people are outraged that they persist.