John Hanger’s blog is a wealth of information about energy sector trends, but now that he’s a candidate for Governor, he should consider making the blog about Pennsylvania state and metro policy issues that impact those trends.
After all, the types and quantities of energy used by people and businesses is heavily impacted by what state and local governments do. PennFuture, the environmental advocacy group co-founded by Hanger, released a report this year that detailed PA’s $2.9 billion in annual subsidies for fossil fuels. Hanger could blog about that and connect it to the debates over transportation and pensions.
Or to take one of the Hanger blog’s favorite issues, instead of writing about market trends, how about blogging some policy ideas state politicians could pass to help more homeowners invest in rooftop solar?
Hanger’s just the guy to bring clean energy proposals like solar feed-in tariffs into the Democratic primary. Properly explained, this could be a solid bread-and-butter political issue for the Democrats. It’s all about saving people money on their energy bills, by letting them lock in low electricity rates.
Check out this post by Dave Roberts at Grist explaining why Germany’s been so successful at bringing its rooftop solar costs down:
Most of those differences can be attributed to policy, either directly or indirectly. PV installations don’t pay sales tax in Germany. Rules governing permitting and interconnection are much simpler. And of course there’s the biggie, which is German feed-in tariffs, whereby customers who install rooftop solar are guaranteed a high rate of return for the lifetime of the system.
But note how the feed-in tariffs are structured:
By design, they decline every year. This has a dual effect. First, it is always pushing German consumers to act immediately, before incentives decline, thereby insuring a stable market for installers and reducing customer acquisition costs.
And second, it keeps installers competing ruthlessly to reduce costs so that they can maintain their profit margin even as tariffs decline. This is what I mean by “indirect effects.” The way German solar support is structured generates more competition, more discipline, and lower profit margins for solar installers. That’s why installers so insistently and successfully push to squeeze out excess costs.
Again: the way Germany structured its solar incentives has both expanded and disciplined the market. Capacity is up, costs are down. That is part of the design. Incentives do not have to make market participants lazy and dependent. They can do the opposite.