Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Factoids: So You Want To Spur a Clean Energy Revolution?

Originally at the Breakthrough Institute
Friday Factoids time again...

As President Obama challenges the U.S. to lead in the global clean energy race today, here's a quick comparison of methods that can drive clean energy deployment. Which do you think will be more effective...


  • Average CO2 prices under the cap and trade system that would be implemented by the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill are expected to be roughly $15 per ton average through 2020.

    Ignoring for a moment free allocations that could undermine these permits, that will raise the price of coal-fired power plants and natural gas fired power plants against which clean energy must compete by roughly $15 per MWh and $8 per MWh respectively. A typical coal plant emits roughly 1 ton CO2 per MWh and a natural gas plant emits about 40% less.

  • The production tax credit that has driven the rapid expansion of the wind industry (when it isn't expiring every other year...) drives down the cost of wind power by roughly $20 per MWh.

  • Feed-in tariffs responsible for rapid growth of the solar industry in Germany lower the net cost of solar power by over 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, or $500 per MWh. In the U.S., an investment tax credit nocks off a full 30% of the cost of solar projects and state-level incentives offer even greater support in big solar states like California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The value of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) supplied to solar energy generators in New Jersey has averaged well above $400 per MWh over the last few years.

  • This year and next, new wind, solar and other renewable energy projects can enjoy a cash grant in lieu of these tax credits worth 30% of the total cost of the projects, funded through the stimulus bill. That incentive is expected to drive up to $10 billion in grants supporting over $33 billion in clean energy projects.

In summary: CO2 price from cap and trade = effective clean energy subsidy of $8-15/MWh. Current PTC is worth $20/MWh. Solar incentives typically top $400-500/MWh. The stimulus bill is driving big investments with cash grant worth 30% of clean energy project costs. How again is the House-passed cap and trade program going to spur a clean energy revolution?

Incentives.jpg
Click to enlarge

*All figures in this post are approximate and meant for comparison purposes only.

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