We can complain all we want about the absurdly high price of electricity, but this situation is likely to persist for two reasons.
First, electric companies are government-sanctioned monopoly utilities. There is usually only one electricity supplier, just as there is one water and natural gas supplier. Telephone services — and phones themselves — used to be a monopoly; it took years of legal battles leveraging the Sherman Antitrust Act to break the telephone monopoly. Now there is a competitive market for phone services and handsets, just as there is the potential for a free and competitive market for electricity.
Second, the cost of electricity is primarily affected by the local cost of living; factors such as electric company wages, real estate costs, taxes, etc. So locations with a high cost of living — such as Hawaii, California and New York — have high electricity prices. And these high electric prices are likely to persist without some magical solution.
Speaking of magical solutions, it’s not practical to drill a well in your back yard for your own natural gas or water, but I can imagine a future in which you could generate your own electricity. How are the existing monopoly electricity providers reacting to this reality in which customers can produce their own less expensive electricity?
Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we delve into the reasons why electricity is so expensive — and how things are changing as solar, storage and better public policies are rolled out.
The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted solar and storage supply chains across all segments of the industry, initially devastated customer demand, reduced opportunities for the workforce, and caused permitting and interconnections to grind to a halt in many jurisdictions.
On the other hand, when homeowners were required to work from home — and they realized that they could not rely on utility power — interest in solar with backup power actually increased. Commercial customer interest paused during shelter in place, whereas utilities continued with their demand for solar and storage
Businesses thrive on accurate and timely information, and the solar + storage industry is no exception. One of the best information sources to help navigate these uncertain times is IHS Markit. Not only do they provide comprehensive solar + storage information, they also provide data analytics and expertise for other cleantech sectors, as well as oil and gas, automotive, financial industries.
My guest on this week’s Energy Show is Cormac Gilligan, Associate Director of Solar and Energy Storage at IHS Markit. Cormac is like a human crystal ball for the global solar industry, and is widely regarded as a leading authority on the global PV inverter market. His analysis and commentary is regularly published by leading PV industry media and the global press. Miguel De Jesus, IHS Markit’s solar and inverter analyst, also joined this week’s Energy Show.
Given Covid-19 impacts on the solar + storage industry, we could use all the intelligent forecasting we can get — so please listen up to this week’s Energy Show.
Everyone is looking forward to a return to some degree of normalcy as we recover from the corona virus pandemic. But it is very hard to make sense what a new normal would be with all the conflicting information from health, economic and policy experts — not to mention the almost diametrically opposed viewpoints expressed in various media outlets.
The reality is that the progression of the corona virus will dictate the pace at which we will return to normal. Unfortunately, there are just way too many variables — on a worldwide basis — to predict when the corona virus will be reduced to a manageable level, perhaps like the flu or common cold.
I’m not a medical or economic or political expert — but I do know a bit about energy, solar and storage. As a result of the corona virus, the solar + storage industry has been on an extreme version of the Solar Coaster. Like most businesses, almost all solar and battery companies were completely shut down for a few weeks in the March/April time frame.
Since energy systems are generally considered “essential infrastructure,” many companies were able to restart as long as they followed applicable social distancing protocols. Unfortunately, local building departments have been slow to resume their permitting and inspection activities. More troubling has been that utility processing of interconnections has been extremely slow; our local utility continues to find virtually every excuse to delay solar and storage installations and increase costs.
Fortunately, the supply chain for solar and storage equipment has been pretty good — so far. Most companies have not experienced any significant shortages of solar panels, inverters or batteries. But the increased need for home and business backup power — coupled with the upcoming wildfire season here in California — is increasing the demand for battery backup systems. As a result, the biggest “supply chain” limitation that most contractors are experiencing relates to the availability of experienced solar and battery installers.
So please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we discuss the changes the solar industry has experienced during the corona virus pandemic, and our outlook on the future as we move toward the “new normal.”
From time immemorial, the fuels that have powered human development have been governed by economics. The cheaper and more available fuels were, the more they were used. And as humanity evolves, we use more and more fuel to meet our energy requirements. We have transitioned from wood to coal to oil to nuclear to gasoline to natural gas — and now to wind and solar, supplemented by batteries.
More recently in human history, subsidies have been used to encourage the development of new these fuel sources. Nuclear power was (and still is) subsidized by the U.S. government. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking), carbon capture and sequestration (so that we can continue to burn coal with lower emissions), hydrogen production and distribution, and synthetic fuels from biological sources have all been heavily subsidized. And there would not be a viable solar and battery storage industry without significant R&D from government sources.
When I reflect on these past subsidies — without exception — every single one mentioned above is still heavily subsidized by both federal and state governments. These subsidies do not only include direct R&D dollars, but also include incentives such as the solar investment tax credit, wind production tax credit, and oil/gas drilling depletion allowance.
But once a new fuel gains production scale and widespread adoption, favorable economics outweigh even large subsidies. We are in such a transition now as clean and cheap wind, solar and battery storage are replacing coal and natural gas fueled electricity To learn more about the economics of fossil fuels and the market forces that are transitioning our world to new energy sources, please tune in to this week’s Energy Show.
The yield curve for certain types of debt is inverted, suggesting that there may be a recession on the horizon. Economists are worried, and their fears trickle down to mortals like us.
BTW, the yield curve plots the interest rate on the vertical axis and term of the debt on the horizontal axis. Normally, long term interest rates are slightly higher than short term rates because, as Yogi Berra said, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” In other words, uncertainty about the future implies higher interest rates. But when the yield curve slopes downwards in the future, that implies that rates in the future will be lowered to counter a nearer-term recession.
So there is a lot of volatility in the stock market…not only due to interest rates, but also related to uncertainty about trade, an upcoming presidential election, and the overall state of our economy. Many of our listeners to The Energy Show invest in what they know the best: energy — including solar, EVs, wind and fossil fuels. So if you are investing in the energy industry, or just depending on it for your career, what are our prospects?
My guest on this week’s Energy Show is Shawn Kravetz, President of Esplanade Capital, LLC. Shawn and I have crossed paths many times, going back to at Akeena and Westinghouse Solar. His firm is based in Boston, and manages capital for families, private investors and institutions with a focus on superior long-term capital appreciation, especially in the energy industry. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show for Shawn’s insights into energy investments and our overall economy.
This week’s Energy Show is about the Green New Deal. Candidly, I’m all for the “green” parts, and not so enthusiastic about some of the “new deal” parts. The Green New Deal, formally called House Resolution 109 — 14 pages in all — is definitely a conversation starter. I sincerely hope that it gets our country re-focused on clean energy and good paying jobs for the 21st century.
Basically, the Green New Deal is a set of proposed economic stimulus programs in the United States with a goal of addressing climate change and economic inequality. The “Green” part refers to proposals to reduce the impact of climate change. It deals primarily with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and technologies that reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I’ve been working in the solar and the energy efficiency industries since 1977, so I believe that an “all of the above” approach gives us the best chance to avert the most negative effects of global warming.
For those of us who coasted through U.S. history in high school, the “new deal” part refers to a set of social policies, economic reforms and public works projects. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed through the New Deal in response to the Great Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration and the Social Security Administration are all legacies of the New Deal — and these policies created jobs for people who needed work. If you go camping in national parks, you may still see log cabins bearing the CCC logo.
Fast forward to 2007 when journalist and author Thomas Friedman coined the term “The Green New Deal.” The concept bounced around and evolved for a dozen years until Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released the Green New Deal resolution on February 7, 2019. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as we discuss both the energy and socioeconomic objectives of the Green New Deal.
Barry Cinnamon has been blogging about the Solar Industry since 2007.
Barry hosts The Energy Show, a weekly 30 minute talk show that runs every Saturday at 1:30 PM on KDOW Radio AM in San Jose California.
Every week Barry provides practical money-saving tips on ways to reduce your home and business energy consumption.
Barry Cinnamon heads up Cinnamon Energy Systems (a San Jose residential and commercial solar and energy storage contractor) and Spice Solar (suppliers of built-in solar racking technology). After 10,000+ installations at Akeena Solar and Westinghouse Solar, he’s developed a pretty good perspective on the real-world economics of rooftop solar — as well as the best products and services for homeowners, manufacturers and installers. His rooftop tinkering led to the development of integrated racking (released in 2007), AC solar modules (released in 2009), and Spice Solar (the fastest way to install rooftop solar modules).
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