Monday, January 10, 2022

Calif. To Slash Rooftop Solar Subsidies, Add New Fees for solar panels on rooftops

Leftists are suckering a lot of people

California regulators are eyeing sharp reductions in subsidies for residential solar systems in what would be the first major reform to a program that helped jump-start the rooftop solar industry, according to Bloomberg.

As part of a proposed series of changes issued on Monday by a judge at the California Public Utilities Commission, residential solar customers would receive a much lower credit for excess energy sent to the grid – with credits ranging from around 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, to less than 10 cents depending on time of day.

The proposal would also stick solar owners with nearly $500 per year in grid-connection fees.

The proposed amendments will undoubtedly impact the business of bolting solar panels on roofs across the U.S., an industry valued at more than $13 billion a year. A deep cut to incentives would likely slow installations in the largest solar state and prompt other sunny jurisdictions to follow. The issue has divided solar firms, consumer groups, environmental advocates and utilities.

New residential rooftop solar customers would get a four-year credit to help them transition to the new rates that would allow them to pay back the cost of a solar and energy storage system over 10 years… –Bloomberg

Net metering

California’s solar incentive program is known as “net energy metering,” and gives residential solar users a credit on their bill equal to the full retail price per killowatt-hour for excess electricity they send back to the grid. The subsidy helped boost the installation of 1.3 million home solar systems across the state – which is around 45% of the nation’s total installations.

Indeed, a key selling point of solar installations is how many years until the system reaches break-even, when the cost of installation is paid for by the savings. The return on net metering is a key component of this.

Critics of net metering says it allows rich homeowners with solar panels to effectively avoid paying their ‘share’ of the cost of maintaining grid infrastructure.

A study by the University of California, Berkeley earlier this year estimated that in San Diego, where home solar accounts for more than 20% of residential power consumption, customers without solar are paying up to an additional $230 on their utility bills per year.

Households with solar panels tend to be wealthier than those without, according to studies


Death-Blow to Keystone Pipeline

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, the oil pipeline that runs through Canada and part of the U.S. His reason was that it would be harmful to the environment.

Twenty-one states then filed a lawsuit in March against the administration, questioning Biden’s authority to revoke the permit, as NBC News reported. A few months later, in June, Alaska and Florida also joined the lawsuit, bringing the total to 23 states against the Biden administration’s action.

However, in June, TC Energy Corporation, the Canada-based energy company and owner of the pipeline, canceled the project, as Bloomberg reported.

In light of TC Energy’s cancellation, on Thursday, a federal judge dismissed the multiple states’ lawsuit, as The Washington Times reported.


Electric cars about to lose a lot of people a lot of money

Boom-and-bust cycles get a bad press – but this is one we should be celebrating

Sony is getting into the electric car market, unveiling a snazzy-looking concept vehicle that combines its blockbuster entertainment portfolio with a battery and some wheels.

Amazon is backing a new range of electric vans from Stellantis, the company formed from the merger between Chrysler and Fiat. Mercedes announced plans for a battery-powered car with a 600-mile range.

In the background, Apple is lurking with its own plans for the market, and in a week when Tesla added another $100bn to its market value it is hardly going to be short of the financial muscle to beef up its own range.

The two things we know for sure about the market for electric vehicles is that it is booming, and also that it is getting very, very crowded.

In truth, it is about to turn into a bloodbath. Lots and lots of big companies with very deep pockets are about to throw a ton of money at the industry, and so are the venture capital firms.

A problem? Not really. Sure, some money will be lost. But it will also mean consumers have a lot more choice; the development of the technology will be rapidly accelerated. Boom and bust investment cycles get a bad press – but this is one we should be celebrating.

At this rate, a few more billion of investment will be thrown at the electric vehicle market before the end of January. Every week seems to bring more competitors into the market.

We might think of Sony as a film and music company that also makes TVs but very soon we could be driving around in one of its products as well.

The company that converted the world to the CD and the games console shouldn’t be written off. It has taken cutting edge technology into the mass-market plenty of times before.

Amazon is starting to dabble in the market, both with huge orders for vans, and its investment in the start-up manufacturer Rivian. Mercedes is planning one of the longest range vehicles yet, and, of course, the traditional auto giants are still in the fight.

Volkswagen has an increasingly impressive range of electric vehicles, and Toyota and Ford are ramping up investment. With relatively few moving parts it is a lot easier to get into the electronic car business than it ever was to make old-style combustion engines.

It is going to be about design, connectivity, and the ability to access capital. Lots of different companies have some or all of those skills. The result? The market is about to get very crowded, very quickly, with a pile of money thrown at carving out a slice of the market.

Is that something we should be worried about? Not really. True, some investors are going to lose a lot of cash. Sony might never get a single yen back of the money it has spent on its prototype, and neither might Apple.

Plenty of the VC-backed start-ups will be remembered only by a handful of vintage EV collectors some time in the 2080s, while Mercedes might well find that no one really wants to drive 600 miles without stopping for a coffee and a charge-up. For the rest of us, however, massive over-investment in the sector is great news. Here’s why.

First, consumers will have far more choice, and even better, they will effectively be subsidised by the venture capital firms, and the auto and tech industries.

We will see a bewildering array of different kinds of battery-powered cars. Do we really care that much about range, given we typically only drive 10 or 20 miles a day? Is connectivity to entertain us along the way the key? Does design and prestige matter, as it did with petrol vehicles, or is it just another functional gadget?

Will we actually want to own an EV, or would we prefer simply to rent one via an app for the few hours a week when we need it? The market will decide. The important point is this, however. The market can make a far better decision if it has plenty of options to choose from – and that is what we are about to get.

Next, intense competition, combined with lots of money, will accelerate the development of new technologies.

There is still a huge amount of innovation to come. Different kinds of batteries may still be developed, and they may use more plentiful, cheaper materials. Tesla, for example, is switching the chemistry of its batteries to help it ramp up production, but there is still plenty of scope for new thinking.

We may see different types of bodies to reduce weight, or heating systems to reduce power consumption, while charging times may be dramatically reduced with new types of cable. We will see. The point is all the money pouring into the industry means that will happen a lot faster than it otherwise would.

Finally, it will mean petrol engines are eliminated far more quickly.

Just a couple of years ago, the idea that the combustion engine would be all but eliminated by the end of this decade would have seemed like the stuff of science fiction.

With more than a quarter of the new vehicles sold in the UK last month battery-powered, it hardly seems far-fetched at all. With so much investment, and prices coming down rapidly, it will happen very soon – and that will be better for the environment.

Investment bubbles are usually criticised, especially on the business pages. And no one would deny that they have their downsides. Capital is wasted, time is spent on failed projects, and investors get caught up in the hype and end up losing a lot of money.

And yet a simple fact remains: they are also a great engine of progress – and we are about to see that all over again in electric vehicles.


Barrier Reef islands are GROWING

Warmists are always prophecying that Pacific islands will go underwater as a result of global warming of the ocean, with coral cays being particularly vulnerable.

But actual evidence below shows us that the opposite is happening. Coral cays are in fact GROWING. Any effect of global warming is more than cancelled out by other processes.

Basing predictions on just one of many potentially influential factors is dumb and very unscientific

A scientific field trip to a small group of deserted islands on the Great Barrier Reef has its roots in a 1928 expedition and has implications for the future of the reef.

A team of researchers from the University of Wollongong led by Associate Professor Sarah Hamylton visited the Howick islands, about 130 kilometres north-east of Cooktown, in far northern Queensland, last year and found the mangroves were expanding.

“What’s particularly interesting for a lot of the islands in the Howick group that we are mapping and investigating is that they are growing,” Associate Professor Hamylton says.

“Most of the islands we have looked at are predominantly made up of broken up corals, which waves then sweep and deposit on the island. This coral sediment is responsible for building up the islands. Add in mangrove forests and you can see that these islands are actually growing. Some mangrove forests are marching forwards by up to five to six metres per year,” she explains.

Associate Professor Hamylton says the group was able to compare aerial images taken by a drone with hand-drawn maps created in 1928 and photographs from 1974.

“This research was started back in 1928 with an expedition known as the Great Barrier Reef Low Isles Expedition.”

In July 1928, British and Australian scientists undertook a journey to investigate the biggest coral reef in the world. They spent 13 months wandering reefs and islands, looking at ocean conditions and growth rate of corals.

“Two members of the Great Barrier Reef Low Isles Expedition were particularly interested in how old the reef islands around here are and how were they formed,” says Associate Professor Hamylton.

“The researchers observed ocean waves and tidal currents transporting loose coral sediments derived from the underlying reef platform and depositing these to form the islands. Sometimes these cays or islands may remain unconsolidated and move around with the seasons. But over time, the larger cays built up to be above the sea level and become covered in vegetation, which stabilises them into more permanent features.”

Forty-five years later, in 1973-74, another group of researchers, the Royal Society and Universities of Queensland Expedition, decided to partially retrace the footsteps of the researchers from the 1928 expedition. They concentrated on remapping the Howick group, as well as other islands further north, in more detail. By remapping the islands and collecting more data on mangrove forest vegetation, the researchers believed they could inspire subsequent studies.

The information caught the eye of Associate Professor Hamylton who has a keen interest in geomorphology, which examines how landscapes such as the islands on the Great Barrier Reef form and are shaped over time.

“When I looked over the maps from 1928, then some aerial photos from 1974, I then compared these maps and images with recent satellite imagery from the internet and could plainly see that the islands had increased in size. Especially since 1974.”




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