Marita Noon’s recent column claiming that renewable energy can’t compete with fossil fuels is nothing more than fossil fuel industry propaganda.
She starts by saying it is a mistake to base our energy policy on what we “should” do. I would hope that government policy is always based on what we “should” do, rather than maintaining massive profits for the oil and coal industries.
She pretends that it is solar and wind that are receiving unwarranted taxpayer subsides. In fact the opposite is true. A November 2011 report by Bloomberg Financial, among many such studies, documents that fossil fuels receive six times the subsides of renewables in the form of grants and tax breaks.
Now, taxpayer subsidies are always controversial. But one argument for them is to help new industries develop and bring prices down that will eventually benefit all of us. Keep in mind the fossil fuel industry is over 100 years old, and it still expects massive subsidies.
This does not even account for the environmental, health and other costs of fossil fuels that are passed on to the general public.
The price of solar energy, on the other hand, is dropping quickly.
Over the last decade the cost of solar has dropped in half, about 7 percent per year. Current projections are, with the continuing drop in solar costs, and the rising cost of electricity at a mere 2 percent per year, in the next couple of years solar electricity will be the cheapest form of electricity in places with lots of sun and high electric costs.
This will happen as early as 2013, starting in southern California and then sweeping the nation.
Within a decade, solar electricity will be cost effective in large areas of the country without subsidies.
Here in New Mexico the crossover point is about 2020. While we have lots of sun, we have relatively low electric rates.
However, if you use PNM actually rising rates closer to 5 percent or 6 percent (rather than 2 percent) then solar is here that much sooner.
Solar electricity is already the cheapest option in places like Hawaii or the U.S. Virgin Islands, to a name but a couple.
In fact this is why the oil and coal industry and their apologists, like Marita Noon, attack renewable energy with such hostility. Renewable energy sources are on the verge of destroying the monopoly and excessive profits these companies have been making for a century.