The cost of “Green Jobs”

June 20th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jo Nova blogs on the costs of Green . Parties around the world love to talk about creating Green , because who can be against and against being good for the environment? A win-win right?

The trouble is that their Green jobs are almost always reliant on huge subsidies that actually destroy jobs.

She gives five examples:

  • Each green job in Britain costs £100,000 (and 3.7 other jobs)
  • In Spain each Green job cost $770,000 and nine jobs were lost for every four created
  • In Italy each Green job costs 5 jobs from the rest of the economy
  • In Germany the subsidy per Green job is 175,000 Euros
  • Green jobs in Denmark are estimated to have reduced Danish GDP by $270 million

We already have tens of thousands of “Green jobs” in New Zealand. They are the ones that get created when an employer is doing well enough to hire more people in the area they work in (such as tourism). The Green jobs that you hear certain political parties promote are the ones that require huge subsidies and destroy jobs elsewhere in the economy.

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96 Responses to “The cost of “Green Jobs””

  1. peterwn (3,144 comments) says:

    I also class ‘Green Jobs’ as well paying advisory/ administrative jobs which are soft, not stressful and carry but a small risk of accountability. These are generally at the cost of the long-suffering taxpayer. The Green Party wants to set up all sorts of working parties to look at this, that and everything else. Meanwhile moratoriums against almost everything would remain in place. So I can see why each ‘Green’ job destroys several *real* jobs.

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  2. alex Masterley (1,490 comments) says:

    We hear about green jobs all the time.

    But I have never seen an adequate description of what a green job is!

    And if they require subsidies I am not interested.

    If you want to see what a “green” economy would look like watch the monty python “bring out your dead sketch”

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  3. Manolo (13,327 comments) says:

    Hey Clint, are you OK with this?

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  4. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    DPF….
    Yep, well said…

    And the unemployment rates in the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, for the uninitiated) just keep rising.

    22 – 27% is now the norm in those nations.

    The OECD average, pulled down by non Euro nations, is about 10%.
    NZ does poorly… we only rate 6%+….13th in the world!
    I am sure that with Russell, David, Hone and WinnythePooh at the helm we can match the PIGS :)

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  5. queenstfarmer (742 comments) says:

    “Green jobs” are jobs in those industries hand-picked by the Green illuminati to artificially succeed at the cost of all others.

    The “Green economy” = entrenched crony capitalism and corruption on an unprecedented scale.

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  6. Mark (497 comments) says:

    The greens keep saying green smart growth over and over like just wishing something will make it true.

    The Greens are seriously demented and should seek professional help.

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  7. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    Structural steel fabrication is a “green” job.

    Electricity from hydropower stations is used to drive welders, saws, cranes and plasma cutters to make components for the construction industry (beams and columns) that are 100% recyclable, in many cases using 100% recycled feed materials. Additionally, 100% of off-cuts are recycled.

    To play your part in a greener future, get into heavy industry!

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  8. nmackay1982 (20 comments) says:

    @alex Masterley – And if they require subsidies I am not interested.

    Are ok with the $46 million annual subsidies for fossil fuels then? Subsidizing the richest industry in the world. This study was only just released by WWF this month – http://www.wwf.org.nz/?10762/New-report-exposes-Government-hypocrisy-on-fossil-fuel-subsidies

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  9. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    Is a tax break the same as a subsidy?

    Hmmm……. ;-)

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  10. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    So the WWF is credible?

    Horseshit.

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  11. nmackay1982 (20 comments) says:

    Where is your evidence that it is not credible?

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  12. nmackay1982 (20 comments) says:

    Or if you don’t believe WWF what about DFP?

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/03/oil_subsidies.html

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  13. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    RRM…
    It depends why it is given.

    Ring fencing and eliminating (tax deductions on) earlier investments made under a particular tax regime was a dangerous attempted step too far by Treasury/Ind. & Comm.
    Faced with implacable opposition from the Todds, Shell and BP, they finally had to throw in the towel and agree to an alternative..
    The political/economic alternative to that would have been no NZ domestic oil/gas/minerals industry …. and one of our biggest export earners (cant recall just how much).
    So $46Million , if true, is peanuts. Less than the Hobbit?

    N Mackay can jerk off on its delusions all day,. He/she/it will still be a jerk.

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  14. alex Masterley (1,490 comments) says:

    It’s a tax break if anything.
    Fossil fuels generate income in excess of a billion dollars pa. and it’s increasing. The royalty, tax, gst and paye components of that are well worth the break.
    And WWF, what flipper said.

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  15. MT_Tinman (2,985 comments) says:

    WWF?

    World Wrestling Federation?

    That, at least, is credible. :-)

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  16. nmackay1982 (20 comments) says:

    I’m delusional? Hmmm.

    Remind me how you can grow an economy infinitely in a finite world? We’re already running at 140% of the planets capacity, and this is growing every year. Do you have a spare planet we don’t know about.

    I’m delusional. Yeah right.

    The anti-environment sentiment here is really unbelievable. But not surprising as DFP bags out just about any initiative with the letters G R E E N in it.

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  17. JC (906 comments) says:

    From memory over 50% of all “green” projects in the US that received Govt subsidies have now failed. Curiously the funds that were deployed to these projects seemed to go to companies whose directors were big donors to Obama campaigns.

    There *will* come a time when solar and other innovative renewables can stand on their own and produce clean reasonably priced energy without subsidy or cronyism but in the meantime lets just enjoy the 1000 year window we have with coal, rivers, oil and shale.

    JC

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  18. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    3 paragraphs of rhetoric about “the hypocrisy of the government”… precious little detail on the alleged “subsidies” that are the main plank of the argument. It doesn’t look too flash.

    Any unwashed person at the perpetually disaffected people’s house in Abel Smith street could have written it.

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  19. decanker (222 comments) says:

    What is Working For Families if not a huge subsidy for employers providing low paid jobs?

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  20. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    100% against fossil fuel subsidies. The third world are the worst culprits. However, given the amount of tax loaded on fossil fuels, I’m pretty sure in aggregate there’s no subsidy there.

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  21. greenjacket (415 comments) says:

    nmackay – the WWF report claims a $47 million “subsidy” by claiming that a tax refund is a subsidy.
    Do you think that tax refunds are a subsidy?
    WWF is just not credible.

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  22. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    Or if you don’t believe WWF what about DFP?

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/03/oil_subsidies.html

    President Obama is the New Zealand Government’s spokesman on petrochemical industry? ;-)

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  23. nmackay1982 (20 comments) says:

    I have to ask as I don’t post much, why do people (who I assume if I met them in the street would be kind, considerate people) when posting online in places such as here think it appropriate to say things like ‘jerk off on its delusions all day’?

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  24. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    All those GREEN PIGS really do fly, don’t they?

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  25. Kleva Kiwi (281 comments) says:

    You should also add the cost of lives associated with green jobs.

    What was the last count? 175 million deaths attributed to the green initiative?

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  26. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    We’re already running at 140% of the planets capacity, and this is growing every year. Do you have a spare planet we don’t know about.

    And there you go again.

    Huge claims. Numerical claims, even.

    No citations.

    And when people don’t believe you and question these numbers you quote, you don’t have answers to their questions, you just get all butt hurt and fire off a bunch of fresh, numerical, huge claims.

    And what does “140% of the world’s capacity” even mean?

    Are you saying the annual rate of consumption is 140% of existing reserves, and we’ll have used up all the oil in another 8 months or so?

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  27. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    nmackay1982 (12) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    We’re already running at 140% of the planets capacity…

    I’m all for green energy and think it will be the dominant source of energy within 20-30 years, but that statement is meaningless nonsense.

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  28. magsta (242 comments) says:

    The much-acclaimed Living Earth composting venture with Wellington’s sewage turned out to be a bit of a stinker….
    http://www.infonews.co.nz/news.cfm?id=10866

    Maggy Wassilieff

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  29. RightNow (6,646 comments) says:

    I wish the IRD would hurry up and process my subsidy after I paid too much tax last year.

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  30. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    RRM…
    Well said. Absolutely right.
    OTB did a paper a few weeks ago and noted:

    ” *** PEAK OIL?

    We have been looking, out of curiosity, at some published prognostications on World oil reserves.
    ……..
    ” Following the (1973) Yom Kippur war, the CIA and other intelligence organisations compiled and circulated formal reports on future world oil production and price. The CIA report in particular, to which one of our contributors had officially sanctioned access, played a large role in the New Zealand Muldoon/Birch “Think Big” programme. But the CIA and the NZ (and other) Government(s) were in good company.

    We note the following (E & OE), which is based on mostly US sources (because the US has been the main driver in World oil exploration and development:
    1882 — Institute of Mining Engineers estimates 95 million barrels of oil remain.
    1926 — Federal Oil Conservation Board estimates 4.5 billion barrels remain.
    1932 — Federal Oil Conservation Board estimates 10 billion barrels of oil remain.
    1944 — Petroleum Administrator for War estimates 20 billion barrels of oil remain.
    1950 — American Petroleum Institute says world oil reserves are at 100 billion barrels.
    1980 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 648 billion barrels
    1993 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 999 billion barrels
    2000 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1016 billion barrels.
    2003 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1212 billion barrels. (Source: Offshore Support Journal – OSJ)
    2007 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1313 billion barrels. (OSJ)
    2011 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1469 billion barrels. (OSJ)
    2013 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1637 billion barrels. (OSJ)

    There is a trend here, is there not?

    Widespread use of fracking, and access to tar sands, will continue to increase oil reserves, while newly discovered, vast quantities of shale gas will inevitably shape our energy future. Solar, wind, tidal and other means of energy production – all high capital cost/high maintenance/short life/ un-storable (at present) means of electricity generation for domestic, industrial, and transportation purposes – will play a role, but not, in the foreseeable future, to the extent that politicians, and silly NGOs, with rose tinted spectacles, predict.
    The red melon Greens will be ever so pleased! “””””

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  31. MT_Tinman (2,985 comments) says:

    decanker (202) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
    What is Working For Families if not a huge subsidy for employers providing low paid jobs?

    Blatant redistribution of wealth. i.e. outright communism!

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  32. mandk (817 comments) says:

    nmackay1982: “I’m delusional? Hmmm.

    Remind me how you can grow an economy infinitely in a finite world? We’re already running at 140% of the planets capacity …”

    These comments rather imply that you are delusional. Where has anyone suggested an ambition to grow an economy infinitely (sic)? And saying that we’re already running at 140% of the planets capacity is utterly meaningless, yet you expect the statement to be taken seriously.

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  33. MT_Tinman (2,985 comments) says:

    nmackay1982, you’re not meeting these people in the street, you’re poking your (welcome) nose into a robust discussion in the pub.

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  34. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    DPF,

    In Spain each Green job cost $770,000 and nine jobs were lost for every four created

    The figures are bullshit. The US Department of Energy released a white paper explaining why:

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/46261.pdf

    Fundamental Limitations

    The metrics used in the Spanish study are not jobs impact estimates. The primary conclusion of the report is that the Spanish economy has experienced job loss as a result of its RE installations. However, comparing the RE subsidy per job with the Spanish economy’s average capital per job and average productivity per job is not a measure of job loss. Traditional methods for estimating jobs and economic impacts are discussed below.

    The comparison of RE jobs with average economy-wide metrics fails to recognize the variability within the modern economy. The cost of job creation varies significantly among economic sectors. For example, creating employment for legal or medical professionals costs more than creating employment for clerical or administrative professionals. Applying a methodology that compares renewable energy employment with an economy-wide average explains very little about how RE job creation compares with comparable industries. A more informative analysis would compare metrics relating to RE workers with metrics for workers in other electricity generating industries. It would also show the range of metrics that exist across industries rather than economy-wide averages.

    The report fails to account for technology export potential. Robust RE technology exports can greatly affect economic impacts of renewable energy (Lehr et. al. 2008). With its proactive RE policies, Spain is already a major exporter of renewable energy equipment (David 2009). If global demand for RE technology increases, Spain’s early investment could allow it to capitalize on a global market for RE technology, which would contribute further to the Spanish economy.

    The study ignores the role of government in facilitating growth of valued new industries. Governments invest in renewable energy technologies to promote the growth of the industry as a whole. Emerging RE technologies have not achieved levels of maturity and economies of scale that traditional technologies have; nor have they benefited from years of public and private investment. As a result, there may be a role for government to play in leveling the playing field between new and old technologies and in supporting emerging technologies. In the United States, all conventional energy technologies received government support in their early stages, and still benefit from government investment today (EIA 2008).

    Worth highlighting that last part.

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  35. kowtow (7,583 comments) says:

    Coal is compressed forest.

    Forests are green .

    Coal mining and combustion is part of the green economy.

    Let’s get mining again for a secure energy efficient,cheap ,warm and green future.

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  36. decanker (222 comments) says:

    “There *will* come a time when solar and other innovative renewables can stand on their own and produce clean reasonably priced energy without subsidy or cronyism but in the meantime lets just enjoy the 1000 year window we have with coal, rivers, oil and shale.”

    Lol, said as though the planet and its people can handle that.

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  37. Komata (1,107 comments) says:

    RRM

    Loved your comment about ‘structural steel.

    The odd thing I’ve noticed about the ‘green jobs’ aspect of job creation is that many of them tend to utilise things that are of either metal or plastic construction.

    The greens are, as we know, virulently against mining, yet they advocate the use of machines that utilise things that are dug out of the ground – and use things made of both metal and plastic to get from place to place.

    Yet, when asked directly, no ‘green’ is prepared to suggest what is to be used instead of the hated ‘mined’ material; noticabley Toad, our resident ‘green’ ampibian ‘convienently’ disappears when asked about such important things.

    Do the greens believe that things like steel, aluminium and (gasp) oil grow on trees, and if not, exactly how do they propoe to obtain thse commodities to use in their ‘clean, green’ utopian environment; on such things as wind tubines etc.

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

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  38. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    Weihana….

    And all those US “green” energy successes?
    Names?
    Are they defined by how long it took them to go belly up?

    The bureaucrats “studies” (aka excuses) have been exposed for what they are: Horseshit.

    Outside The Beltway. January 2012 said in “Demolishing …” :

    ” Another major contributor to the wider economic malaise has been the desire of many euro nations to introduce “green” jobs. (See also Part 7.) The State of California tried with disastrous consequences. In Britain the results have been appalling. Spain embraced green jobs with a vengeance, losing 2.2 jobs for every “green job” created. So bad did the situation become that unemployment rose to 22 per cent as the socialist government was tipped out of office just a few weeks ago.

    (See also The False Promise of Green Energy by Morris A.P. et al; the Cato Institute Washington D.C. 2011. ISBN 978-1-935308-41-6 for a detailed, peer reviewed analysis.) “

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  39. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    flipper (1,746) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Solar, wind, tidal and other means of energy production – all high capital cost/high maintenance/short life/ un-storable (at present) means of electricity generation for domestic, industrial, and transportation purposes – will play a role, but not, in the foreseeable future, to the extent that politicians, and silly NGOs, with rose tinted spectacles, predict.

    Solar has actually achieved grid parity in many places and is set to achieve it worldwide within the decade or sooner. There is a good case to make that it will follow fairly predictable exponential increases in performance and efficiency. The reason for this is 30 years of data indicating such a trend.

    Solar energy hitting the Earth is orders of magnitude greater than the total world energy consumption. Seems silly to bet against solar being a major (if not the primary) source of energy over the coming decades.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/03/16/smaller-cheaper-faster-does-moores-law-apply-to-solar-cells/

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  40. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    Chrissy Scottie Wussy….

    Please define “carbon”.

    Do you mean soot and nasty chemical residues?
    or
    Do you mean CO2?

    Careful now.
    You may fall in to the Gore/Mann/Hansen/Jones/Helengrad/Norman et al trap. :)

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  41. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    Weihana…

    On solar:
    Cost per unit generated?
    Subsidy per unit?
    Life of plant?

    Not good buddy.
    It will get better in time. But no cigar this side of 2025, I suspect.

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  42. Ed Snack (1,733 comments) says:

    Weihana, solar only achieves “grid parity” in very narrow circumstances, primarily where the “grid” is abnormally expensive. Solar is typically subsidized at rates between 3 -10 times to normal feed in price. If solar genuinely meets the price inputs of other forms of generation, then why is it subsidized ?

    Solar is currently a complete and absolute waste of resources, however I do support research into ways to make it more competitive as it is possible with some clever engineering it may get to a suitable point at some stage. Which is all the more reason NOT to invest in worthless solar schemes yet.

    If we(as a world) want a reliable and safe energy source, my pick would be Thorium fission. A bit more research needed, but the real potential exists.

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  43. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    flipper (1,749) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Weihana….

    And all those US “green” energy successes?
    Names?
    Are they defined by how long it took them to go belly up?

    I’m aware of two defaulters. Solyndra represented 3% of the DOE portfolio.

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  44. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    flipper (1,749) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Weihana…

    On solar:
    Cost per unit generated?
    Subsidy per unit?
    Life of plant?

    Not good buddy.
    It will get better in time. But no cigar this side of 2025, I suspect.

    Which says that we are not in that much disagreement. Do you believe that the internet sprung into existence in the 90s? Or do you think it was a good idea that the government invested in the concept decades prior?

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  45. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    If you buy solar today knowing that solar tomorrow will be better, you’re locking in 20 years of uneconomic solar panels on your roof.

    Observing that the solar radiation hitting the earth exceeds our energy needs ignores two things:
    1. If we absorb all that for electricity, that implies we’d be in the dark (living under the solar cells)
    2. The world’s energy consumption is growing, I’d like to aspire to a world where we use more energy than that available through solar irradiation

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  46. flipper (3,537 comments) says:

    Weihana
    Pax

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  47. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Ed Snack (980) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Weihana, solar only achieves “grid parity” in very narrow circumstances, primarily where the “grid” is abnormally expensive. Solar is typically subsidized at rates between 3 -10 times to normal feed in price. If solar genuinely meets the price inputs of other forms of generation, then why is it subsidized ?

    That’s a great argument for right now. But it’s a very narrow view to say the least. The fact is solar has been gradually becoming more efficient. Of course the more expensive the market the quicker it will achieve parity. But you talk as if the technology is static which misses the whole point: that solar technology is on an exponential trajectory which is why we have gotten to the point that it has grid parity anywhere. Solar has not had parity always, it has achieved it only through advancements and will continue to achieve parity elsewhere following this progress. Maybe progress will stop but it seems unlikely and parity would only increase the economic incentives to invest in the technology.

    Solar is currently a complete and absolute waste of resources, however I do support research into ways to make it more competitive as it is possible with some clever engineering it may get to a suitable point at some stage. Which is all the more reason NOT to invest in worthless solar schemes yet.

    Arguable. Solyndra certainly wasn’t a good investment.

    If we(as a world) want a reliable and safe energy source, my pick would be Thorium fission. A bit more research needed, but the real potential exists.

    All options on the table I say.

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  48. Ross12 (1,144 comments) says:

    Weihana

    Firstly, I’ll I’m not against alternative energy where they are economically viable. I think the biggest issue in these debates is that there tends to be arguements saying things like ” wind energy is the best” or ” solar is the way to go” –that is, broad global pushes for one alternative over the other. I think the answer is relatively small scale of what is best for the area.
    For example if a timber mill had a drying plant ,then it would stupid for them not to invest in an energy supply plant utilizing there wood chips/saw dust/off cuts. But along the road a farmer could solar to run his electric fences or solar water heating for his milking shed hot water. These are small examples hopefully you get the idea.

    Now in answer to the issue of failures in the USA I have cut and pasted this from another blog. Apparently the list is a few year old

    “The 19 asterisked companies have already filed for bankruptcy. The others are near bankruptcy:
    1.Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*
    2.SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
    3.Solyndra ($535 million)*
    4.Beacon Power ($43 million)*
    5.Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
    6.SunPower ($1.2 billion)
    7.First Solar ($1.46 billion)
    8.Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
    9.EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
    10.Amonix ($5.9 million)
    11.Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
    12.Abound Solar ($400 million)*
    13.A123 Systems ($279 million)*
    14.Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*
    15.Johnson Controls ($299 million)
    16.Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
    17.ECOtality ($126.2 million)
    18.Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
    19.Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
    20.Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
    21.Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
    22.Range Fuels ($80 million)*
    23.Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*
    24.Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
    25.Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*
    26.GreenVolts ($500,000)
    27.Vestas ($50 million)
    28.LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)
    29.Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
    30.Navistar ($39 million)
    31.Satcon ($3 million)*
    32.Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*
    33.Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)”

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  49. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    PaulL (5,238) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    If you buy solar today knowing that solar tomorrow will be better, you’re locking in 20 years of uneconomic solar panels on your roof.

    People buy computers today knowing that they’ll be better in a few years.

    Observing that the solar radiation hitting the earth exceeds our energy needs ignores two things:
    1. If we absorb all that for electricity, that implies we’d be in the dark (living under the solar cells)

    Numbers are important. We aren’t going to cover the world in solar cells. The point is that only a small fraction would be necessary to provide our current energy needs.


    If humanity could capture one tenth of one percent of the solar energy striking the earth – one part in one thousand – we would have access to six times as much energy as we consume in all forms today…

    2. The world’s energy consumption is growing, I’d like to aspire to a world where we use more energy than that available through solar irradiation

    I agree. But it’s not going to grow by orders of magnitude any time soon.

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  50. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Ross12 (463) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Now in answer to the issue of failures in the USA I have cut and pasted this from another blog. Apparently the list is a few year old…


    But a spokesman for the Energy Department said that agency has dozens of programs that funded over 1,300 companies in the renewable energy space, and that less than 1% have gone bankrupt — also true.

    So just how many federally-funded energy companies have failed?

    A total of five have gone bankrupt, according to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. All of the failed companies that the Committee identified came from just two programs that received significant dollar amounts from the Department of Energy. Those two programs funded 63 firms. The other 58 are still in business. That’s a failure rate of about 8%.

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/22/news/economy/obama-energy-bankruptcies/index.html

    Still I can see the valid criticism in a lot of this funding. There is plenty of danger in the government trying to pick winners and losers, particularly in a global marketplace.

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  51. stigie (889 comments) says:

    Komata says….
    Do the greens believe that things like steel, aluminium and (gasp) oil grow on trees, and if not, exactly how do they propoe to obtain thse commodities to use in their ‘clean, green’ utopian environment; on such things as wind tubines etc.

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

    Dont ya know, all these things can be made out of hemp mate !!

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  52. RightNow (6,646 comments) says:

    ” We aren’t going to cover the world in solar cells. The point is that only a small fraction would be necessary to provide our current energy needs.”

    True, but that small fraction is about half a million sq km. Probably about $US150 trillion just for the panels, add land costs, installation and delivery infrastructure and it gets up there. Then you have to consider the lifecycle – will they need regular maintenance, and how often do you have to replace them?

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  53. nasska (10,613 comments) says:

    Right Now

    It seems to me that installing those solar panels would create a half million square kilometre desert under them.

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  54. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    If solar panels and windmills were viable ways to generate electricity, then we would already be doing it, without subsidies. If we want realistic alternatives to traditional generation then we need to stop the handouts.

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  55. Komata (1,107 comments) says:

    But kea, ‘If we want realistic alternatives to traditional generation then we need to stop the handouts’

    What about your social concience sir, and the public-good, and the votes that can be bought . . .

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  56. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    To be fair, solar panels are mostly refined sand. So covering sand with refined sand isn’t such a bad idea. :-)

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  57. nasska (10,613 comments) says:

    PaulL

    But the deserts of sand are not near to the population centres where the energy is required. :)

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  58. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RightNow (5,466) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    ” We aren’t going to cover the world in solar cells. The point is that only a small fraction would be necessary to provide our current energy needs.”

    True, but that small fraction is about half a million sq km.

    Which in the context of global energy use doesn’t seem that much. Also it’s likely to be used in conjunction with other sources of power, particularly if storage issues persist.

    Probably about $US150 trillion just for the panels, add land costs, installation and delivery infrastructure and it gets up there. Then you have to consider the lifecycle – will they need regular maintenance, and how often do you have to replace them?

    The major cost for solar is the capital cost which is basically the cost of the PVs which has been improving in price performance at a fairly steady exponential rate for some time.

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  59. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Kea (5,307) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    If solar panels and windmills were viable ways to generate electricity, then we would already be doing it, without subsidies. If we want realistic alternatives to traditional generation then we need to stop the handouts.

    Again, missing the point. That’s like sitting in 1995 saying “If 22nm processors were viable then we’d have them already”. Technology builds upon itself with each generation helping you get to the next. With information technologies they tend to follow a fairly predictable rate of improvement. Solar power seems to follow a similar progression. It seems reasonable that solar power would require some initial investment to get to a point where it is viable. People seem to ignore the role government has played in helping establish various technologies which at first are not economically viable and too risky for the private market to invest in. And yet here we are today with the internet, nuclear power etc.

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  60. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Komata, my social conscience will be feeling great if we find an economically viable clean energy source. If solar panels were viable we would already be doing it. I hope future development improves the technology, but it is not there yet.

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  61. Than (425 comments) says:

    @Weihana – Could you provide a cite for the cost of photovoltaic? My day job is building equipment sites that are either completely off-grid, or are designed to keep going if the grid goes down. These often feature solar power, and I have not seen any significant shift in the price of solar panels in the last ten years.

    I also disagree with your premise that the major cost for solar is capital costs. The major cost for both solar and wind power is overcoming their intermittent nature. That is the elephant in the room for non-hydro renewable energy, and I have yet to see a convincing reply.

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  62. Spam (593 comments) says:

    The “subsidies” are essentially the government doing seismic surveys. That data is then made available to people who bid for permit blocks. If they do their own seismic, and then later relinquish the permit, then that seismic data must be given to the government. Seismic data is also shot for mapping the sea bed (for example).

    This is neither a tax break, nor a subsidy.

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  63. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Weihana, you correctly point out that “It seems reasonable that solar power would require some initial investment to get to a point where it is viable.”

    The great advances in computers came from private investors and inventors who could see the huge potential. If what you claimed was correct then we would see billions being invested by private individuals and not by governments using our money. I suggest that people who know far more than you are keeping their money in their pockets for good reason.

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  64. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Speaking of solar BP has been in the solar game for about 40 years and have poured billons of dollars into it. They have dropped our recently, but have committed to spending 8 billion on alternative energy by 2015.

    Shows what a wanker Griff is, if nothing else. :)

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  65. nasska (10,613 comments) says:

    Than @ 8.18 hit the nail on the head….the intermittent nature of solar generation is the killer. Mass production may lower the cost of solar panels but nothing is going to happen until science discovers a yet unknown battery that can store the energy until it’s required.

    The horses & the carts are out of order most of the time when the subject of alternative energy is debated.

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  66. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    BP to Exit Solar Business After 40 Years

    LONDON—BP PLC has decided to draw the curtains on its solar business after 40 years, shutting down what was once earmarked as a key division in its quest to develop greener sources of energy.

    “We’ve tried and struggled to make money from it,” a spokesman said

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204464404577112892260821850.html

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  67. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Than (166) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 8:18 pm
    @Weihana – Could you provide a cite for the cost of photovoltaic? My day job is building equipment sites that are either completely off-grid, or are designed to keep going if the grid goes down. These often feature solar power, and I have not seen any significant shift in the price of solar panels in the last ten years.

    Refer scientific american article I referenced earlier. Note it is cost per watt that is the key metric. You will note how a computer today costs the same as ten years ago but is much more powerful.

    I also disagree with your premise that the major cost for solar is capital costs. The major cost for both solar and wind power is overcoming their intermittent nature. That is the elephant in the room for non-hydro renewable energy, and I have yet to see a convincing reply.

    I don’t disagree but that doesn’t mean it cannot be used in conjunction with other power sources and become a major source of energy even without effective storage.

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  68. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Kea,

    The great advances in computers came from private investors and inventors who could see the huge potential. If what you claimed was correct then we would see billions being invested by private individuals and not by governments using our money. I suggest that people who know far more than you are keeping their money in their pockets for good reason.

    Too much libertarian ideology. In actual fact governments have invested enormously in fundamental computing research and development. The first electronic general purpose computer was built by the US army, google ENIAC. The military also developed ARPANET. This belief that technological advancement comes only from “private investors” is an article of faith for libertarians short on history.

    Government has a legitimate role in bankrolling fundamental research and development and promoting growth of new industries that can be relatively risky and competing against old technologies that have already benefitted from substantial public and private investment. This is especially so if there is a public interest.

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  69. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Weihana , if there was a buck to be made from solar, people would be doing it already. The fact is that after billions of dollars and massive subsidies there is no economical large scale solar generation. Keep dreaming, just do not expect tax payers to fund that dream.

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  70. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    kea,

    When was Arpanet established? 1969. When did the internet as we know it explode? The 90s. But in actual fact it didnt come out of nowhere. The number of internet nodes had been increasing exponentially for a long time before. But that is the thing with exponential growth, at first it is almost imperceptible.

    Fact is Kea you would not be on the net without tax dollars being used to lay the groundwork.

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  71. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    The great advances in computers came from private investors and inventors who could see the huge potential.

    Wow, not only does the free market rule the world, it invents everything as well. Not.

    On top of the above, think NASA. Research CERN, Berkley University of California, our very own Waikato University, or the code breakers in WWII. The “greats” such as Apple, Microsoft and venture capitalists haven’t ever actually contributed much at all, they’ve sold a lot of stolen ideas or already existing ideas and then bob’s your uncle.

    A couple of private investors/companies have given the big breaks of their own invention but all the others have ever given us was the dot com boom & bust and endless look-a-like shopping and social media sites that barely get off the ground and then flop & forget.

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  72. RightNow (6,646 comments) says:

    Just how much solar technology is actually developed by governments? As I understand it governments predominantly dish out taxpayer money to private companies to do the development. Frankly I don’t think this counts as government invention.

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  73. Tom Jackson (2,458 comments) says:

    No idea why you righties hate solar.

    Imagine rooftop panels that feed back into the grid. If they get good enough, there’s your functioning private market in electricity. Each household can weight up whether it is worth getting their own or buying someone else’s. it would be extremely efficient.

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  74. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Tom, I am a fan of solar. But I want to see it pay its own way. That is the only way to get wide spread uptake and make a real difference. At present it is an indulgence of the well off.

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  75. Lance (2,439 comments) says:

    The problem is integration, appropriate technology for the application and balance of systems.
    These basic principles are all being grossly ignored and the result is poor outcomes for solar and other micro-generation renewables.
    For example solar thermal water heating makes great economic sense if it is on a larger (than simple domestic) scale with decent storage, a well set up Dairy installation will ‘payback’ in 12 months. The problem is this requires smarts to do it properly and who is the stake holder? In NZ share milkers might reap the benefits but the installation is at the farmers expense so no sale.
    Domestic solar thermal is typically too small a draw to make it economically justifiable for most.
    Solar Electric is expensive still and feed in tariffs are subsidies and in NZ are mostly non existent while in Australia they are collapsing, also feed-in requires elevated voltages from the installation and in some areas where there are a lot of installations the local voltage on the grid is too high and tripping out.
    There are many other ill thought out issues as well.

    These issues can be overcome by smart people and even make sense to the consumer and industry but a bevy of govt nincompoops and self interested parties are making a clusterfuck of it. So fucked in the head are the ‘officials’ they dictate what will and will not work in an installation only if they can computer model it with modules they have on hand….. wankers!

    So yes the industry in general has been tarnished by a perfect storm of meddling fuckwits, incompetency and misguided nit wits.
    If you are in an industry that attracts such attention, be afraid, be very afraid.

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  76. Rich Prick (1,538 comments) says:

    When I hear “Green Jobs” I really can’t get past thinking of periodic detention workers picking up litter. But I’m sure there are some spiffing super-dooper examples the Greens could give me.

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  77. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    @Tom Jackson: the right generally dislike the current solar market because many of us are wealthy, and we can see that mostly the money sunk into solar is money coming from taxpayers (read: often coming from the poor) and is disproportionately given to wealthy people to fund their boondoggle.

    Despite the caricature of the right that many on the left have, most on the right are strongly against transfers of wealth being given to the wealthy. Many of my well off middle to upper middle class friends have solar panels. None of them would have them other than that they get both a subsidy to install them and an artificially inflated feed-in tariff that means every other power consumer is subsidising them having their piece of electronics on their roof (this in Australia). I personally find it obscene that poor electricity users, most of whom cannot afford the up-front cash needed to install solar panels, nor the risk of not making a return, are subsidising wealthy people to be able to boast to their mates at dinner parties (no doubt whilst sipping chardonnay) about how green they are.

    I’m 100% in favour of people buying solar panels if they want, and saving money if they want. I’m 100% against other people (read here, poor people) subsidising them in doing it.

    I think you’ll find many, even most, people on the right hold a similar view to me.

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  78. Lance (2,439 comments) says:

    @PaulL
    Agreed
    End all subsidies and govt interference now on the micro-generation market and any subsidies on competing markets.

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  79. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    PaulL (5,240) Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I personally find it obscene that poor electricity users, most of whom cannot afford the up-front cash needed to install solar panels, nor the risk of not making a return, are subsidising wealthy people to be able to boast to their mates at dinner parties (no doubt whilst sipping chardonnay) about how green they are.

    Most tax is paid by those with higher incomes. To suggest the poor is subsidizing anything is a nice little piece of fiction and an effective narrative, but no system could sustain itself by transferring the non-existent wealth of the poor to the well off.

    Fact is the poor benefits from government investment in technology as everyone does. The purpose of subsidies is to encourage a new industry to develop to the point of self-sustainability.

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  80. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    @Lance, good comments. I’ve just installed a solar system with batteries to avoid the cost of a long supply line to an unreliable supply for a relatively small and intermittent demand. Panels are cheap but batteries are expensive.

    I think the UFB project is a poor use of taxpayers’ money. For a tiny fraction the Government could surely have tendered for the design and implementation of a good smart metered national micro electricity market?

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  81. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RightNow (5,467) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Just how much solar technology is actually developed by governments? As I understand it governments predominantly dish out taxpayer money to private companies to do the development. Frankly I don’t think this counts as government invention.

    And by that logic the F35 is not a government plane because it is built by Lockheed Martin?

    No one is suggesting that Barack Obama or some bureaucrat is an inventor. The point is that the government can use public money for things the market would not fund, such as ARPANET, or nuclear research, or space exploration etc. Such funding has resulted in entire new industries being created on which the market thrives. But the market won’t fund these things initially because the market is interested in one thing only: personal gain. They are not interested in establishing something simply because society overall will benefit, where the risks are high, and where the potential profit streams are unclear.

    Seems right-wingers struggle with any concept other than “market knows best, always, in any situation”.

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  82. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    @itstricky, I think you’ll find that private enterprise tax paid for all the “Government” research you cite.

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  83. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson (1,582) Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 11:46 am

    @itstricky, I think you’ll find that private enterprise tax paid for all the “Government” research you cite.

    Missing the point. The point is it would not otherwise have been invested in these projects if not for the government taking that capital and using it for the public good.

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  84. Scott Chris (5,870 comments) says:

    I’d rather see GHG emissions taxed evenly by all nations than mess around with subsidies. It’s a better market mechanism imo. The strongest alternative emerges naturally.

    However in a world where international political consensus is nigh on impossible, subsidies may be a necessary evil.

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  85. Griff (6,703 comments) says:

    ;Than (166) Says:
    June 20th, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    @Weihana – Could you provide a cite for the cost of photovoltaic? My day job is building equipment sites that are either completely off-grid, or are designed to keep going if the grid goes down. These often feature solar power, and I have not seen any significant shift in the price of solar panels in the last ten years.

    Wikihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_panel

    Average pricing information divides in three pricing categories: those buying small quantities (modules of all sizes in the kilowatt range annually), mid-range buyers (typically up to 10 MWp annually), and large quantity buyers (self-explanatory—and with access to the lowest prices). Over the long term there is clearly a systematic reduction in the price of cells and modules. For example in 2012 it was estimated that the quantity cost per watt was about $0.60, which was 250 times lower than the cost in 1970 of $150

    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/6/20/solar-energy/where-will-solar-pricing-be-2017

    Production costs for industry-leading Chinese crystalline-silicon (c-Si) PV module manufacturers — such as Jinko Solar, Renesola, Trina Solar and Yingli Green Energy — will fall from 50 cents per watt in the fourth quarter of 2012 to 36 cents per watt by the end of 2017, according to a new report from GTM Research. The report, PV Technology and Cost Outlook, 2013-2017, predicts that the majority of these cost declines will derive from technology innovations such as diamond wire sawing for PV wafers, advanced metallization solutions, and increased automation in place of manual labor.

    While precipitous cost declines of roughly 70 cents per watt from 2010 to 2012 were made possible by cutthroat pricing and margin erosion in the polysilicon and PV materials markets, the report sees cost reduction drivers migrating in-house for wafer, cell, and module suppliers, as adoption of advanced technology platforms and manufacturing automation will account..

    Research funding in perspective

    Atwater is, ultimately, trying to build better cells using relatively conventional materials and techniques. While it’s possible right now to build solar cells with efficiencies that near 50 percent, those cells are so expensive that the only wide use they have is on spacecraft. That’s way too expensive to get people to put them on their homes. On the other hand, a cheap solar panel that was 50 percent efficient could supply a typical house with the majority of its energy needs — even in the deep winter when there is only a six-hour period of bright sunlight.

    Last December, the government agency ARPA-E awarded Atwater and his team $2.4 million :lol: to develop the ultra high-efficiency photovoltaics. Let’s hope he can do it.

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  86. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    @Weihana, a private company cannot invest in pure research since that would be a betrayal of its shareholders interests. However very many private individuals support universities with endowments and donations directly and voluntarily as well as involuntarily through their taxes. Also Governments invest hugely in military technologies which may have public good spin-offs. Whether the cost/benefit ratios are favourable for the public is certainly another legitimate issue.

    Certainly you can argue Government expenditure has funded projects that have produced public good. That is entirely different from proving that mechanism is efficient or desirable.

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  87. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    @Weihana: at the margin, an extra dollar of tax comes from somewhere. These subsidies are effectively extra dollars of tax. As is the usual political process, if that dollar of tax didn’t exist, someone would get a tax cut. Do you have a reason to believe that the tax cut wouldn’t come to the poor?

    The bottom line: the poor do pay tax. And if the government spent less, they maybe wouldn’t have to.

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  88. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson (1,583) Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Certainly you can argue Government expenditure has funded projects that have produced public good. That is entirely different from proving that mechanism is efficient or desirable.

    Well if we are talking about the internet I think the question of desirability is self-evident. As to efficiency I agree I cannot “prove” that it is more efficient because to do so would require comparison between the actual government funded research that evolved into the modern internet and a hypothetical internet that the free market would have created all by itself. Given that one exists and the other is simply an assumed possibility I think it’s fair to give credit to the government for laying the foundations of the modern internet. Questioning efficiency seems pretty pointless when there is only one example to speak of.

    I agree of course that’s a long way from showing that solar power is comparable to the internet in terms of its potential to benefit society. But I do not believe any reasonable person can, with a straight face, argue that in 1969 Google and all the companies we take for granted were a foregone conclusion.

    But I accept there are legitimate arguments around whether the government should subsidize solar (or other alternatives). I simply think the concept for solar as an exponentially improving technology deserves a fair hearing and not casually dismissed because Government spending is evil and individuals always spend capital more wisely to the benefit of society.

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  89. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    PaulL (5,243) Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    @Weihana: at the margin, an extra dollar of tax comes from somewhere. These subsidies are effectively extra dollars of tax. As is the usual political process, if that dollar of tax didn’t exist, someone would get a tax cut. Do you have a reason to believe that the tax cut wouldn’t come to the poor?

    The bottom line: the poor do pay tax. And if the government spent less, they maybe wouldn’t have to.

    Paying tax is not the same as “subsidizing the wealthy”.

    Moreover, as many here like to point out on a regular basis, the bottom half pay no net tax. “Takers vs the Makers” as they say. :)

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  90. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    I struggle that solar is really exponentially improving. That would imply something like Moore’s law applies. Whilst solar is a silicon based process, it isn’t subject to Moore’s law.

    Moore’s law says that the number of transistors you can get on a given space/for a given price/for a given power usage will double every 18 months. That remains broadly true.

    However, solar cells don’t use transistors. They’re seeking a particular efficiency rate in converting sunshine into power. This efficiency rate can be expressed in % of the sunlight incident upon the panel converted into electricity, and also as the $ per watt of power generated.

    For the former, Moore’s law doesn’t apply. There is a thermodynamic maximum as to what % of sunlight can be converted into electricity, and I think current solar cells are around half that. Clearly room for improvement, but also clearly not exponential. In fact, almost reverse exponential – efficiency works as an asymptote where we can approach but never reach the theoretical maximum efficiency, so in fact gains will reduce over time, not increase.

    In terms of $ per watt produced, I’m not convinced that is exponential either. Certainly for silicon-based panels, the problem is simply the amount of silicon involved. Processors get cheaper because they fit more processing onto the same silicon – the silicon itself isn’t getting cheaper. But solar cells don’t reduce in area as they get more efficient – you still need the sunlight to fall on the panel, unless we’re talking about concentrating solar. To some extent there are benefits in making the silicon thinner, but that creates other costs.

    Thin film panels have potential, they get cheaper as people invent new ways to make them (ink jet printing or the like). They also offer very low conversion ratios, so you may run out of space on your roof before you make as much power as you like.

    In short, I think you have your rose coloured glasses on Weihana.

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  91. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Weihana, do you power your house with solar and if not, why ?

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  92. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    PaulL (5,245) Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I struggle that solar is really exponentially improving. That would imply something like Moore’s law applies. Whilst solar is a silicon based process, it isn’t subject to Moore’s law.

    Moore’s law says that the number of transistors you can get on a given space/for a given price/for a given power usage will double every 18 months. That remains broadly true.

    However, solar cells don’t use transistors. They’re seeking a particular efficiency rate in converting sunshine into power. This efficiency rate can be expressed in % of the sunlight incident upon the panel converted into electricity, and also as the $ per watt of power generated.

    For the former, Moore’s law doesn’t apply. There is a thermodynamic maximum as to what % of sunlight can be converted into electricity, and I think current solar cells are around half that. Clearly room for improvement, but also clearly not exponential. In fact, almost reverse exponential – efficiency works as an asymptote where we can approach but never reach the theoretical maximum efficiency, so in fact gains will reduce over time, not increase.

    I agree there are limits. An exponential will not continue on until infinity. This is true of silicon chips as anything else. Physics will impose some constraints. I expect this will be the final decade of silicon chips before another technology has to replace it.

    The same is true of solar. It is limited by physical constraints. But Solar is already achieving grid parity in many countries (Italy and India recently) and it is only about 1% of global energy. Seems to me that it is approaching a point of global viability with room for improvements remaining.

    In terms of $ per watt produced, I’m not convinced that is exponential either. Certainly for silicon-based panels, the problem is simply the amount of silicon involved. Processors get cheaper because they fit more processing onto the same silicon – the silicon itself isn’t getting cheaper. But solar cells don’t reduce in area as they get more efficient – you still need the sunlight to fall on the panel, unless we’re talking about concentrating solar. To some extent there are benefits in making the silicon thinner, but that creates other costs.

    But computer chips don’t actually get smaller either. You still require the same amount of silicon, you simply craft more nano-scale structures on it. But simply saying “they fit more processing onto the same silicon” doesn’t really explain why it gets cheaper. I think the real answer lies in the fact that the advancements are knowledge/information based. We build upon a base of previous knowledge and information and with each generation that base gets larger and thus the advancements accelerate.

    30 years of exponentially improving price performance seems to suggest that the comparison to silicon chips is valid.

    Thin film panels have potential, they get cheaper as people invent new ways to make them (ink jet printing or the like). They also offer very low conversion ratios, so you may run out of space on your roof before you make as much power as you like.

    In short, I think you have your rose coloured glasses on Weihana.

    When it comes to technology yes I admit I’m very much an optimist. :)

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  93. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Kea (5,321) Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Weihana, do you power your house with solar and if not, why ?

    No, but the reasons why are irrelevant.

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  94. Alan Wilkinson (1,812 comments) says:

    Obviously there are theoretical limits to efficiency of solar cells. However there will be scope for improvement in materials, construction, longevity and focusing. However, it seems to me the main issues are in control and marketing of the power produced and there is surely enormous scope for improvement there using existing available technologies.

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  95. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    @itstricky, I think you’ll find that private enterprise tax paid for all the “Government” research you cite.

    Ha. This is the classic conservative view of “my tax money”

    Everything in the tax pool is for the good of the people. Once it goes in the pool, none of it is “your money” or “his money” or “that company over there’s money”

    To suggest that all the Government research came just from company tax is ridiculous. Everybody contributes their fair share, and ew, look, you get good things like the WWW and the Internet in NZ. Fancy that.

    And, as Weihana points out, you might not have things such as the Internet in NZ if you didn’t have the Government investing money in a bunch of CSIR scientists that dreamt of communicating with others around the world. Private enterprise just wouldn’t have bought that they could make profit out of that at the time.

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  96. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    Private enterprise just wouldn’t have bought that they could make profit out of that at the time.

    In fact, I’ll add:

    A whole bunch of private enterprises would be sitting around the 90′s version of Kiwiblog all chatting amongst themselves going:

    Have you heard about those academic ivory tower quacks and their “communications” – all these new fangled “networks” jobs – they’re costing us real jobs, those are…

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