Feed-in tariffs are the world's most popular renewable energy policy mechanism. Despite the economic recession, more and more jurisdictions are turning to feed-in tariffs to spur not only renewable energy development but also industrial development and the attendant jobs that it creates.
The following article is a snapshot of places where feed-in tariffs are being used, and the prices that are being paid. While extensive, this article is not comprehensive. It does not include every tariff for every technology in every jurisdiction, but it does give a flavor for the widespread use of this policy mechanism.
More than 80 jurisdictions around the world now use or have used feed-in tariffs to pay for new renewable generation, according to a recent report by REN 21. These vary from former Eastern Bloc countries, such as Slovenia and Bulgaria, to developing countries, such as Uganda and Mongolia, to the more well known examples of Germany and France.
According to the Renewables 2011 Global Status Report, feed-in tariffs now dominate policy for renewable energy worldwide. There are 60 percent more jurisdictions (states, provinces, and entire countries) using feed-in tariffs than are now using quota systems (Renewable Portfolio Standards, Renewable Energy Standards, and so on).
Momentum for quota programs began leveling off in 2008 as the global recession first began to take hold. Even during the early years of the recession, however, momentum continued to build for feed-in tariff policies.
Updated Tables of FITs Worldwide
I try to maintain a multi-tab table (spreadsheet) of feed-in tariffs worldwide here. I've recently updated the tables and now include current prices for Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Nova Scotia, Spain, and Sri Lanka, as well as tariffs for numerous other countries.
The full table is never complete or fully current, as the data changes frequently. For solar photovoltaics (solar PV), it changes even more frequently, as jurisdictions adjust their tariffs for new contracts to reflect falling panel prices. But the table remains one of the few such sources in the public domain.
Most countries in the European Union (EU) now use feed-in tariffs to develop their renewable resources. Earlier this year consultants to the EU released a major report on the status of member states' policies to meet their binding renewable energy targets. The 343-page report, Renewable Energy Country Policy Profiles 2011, includes extensive updates on feed-in tariffs in the member states. Much of the data in the report has been incorporated into my Tables of Feed-In Tariffs Worldwide.
Price Alone is Insufficient
For most, feed-in tariffs are solely about the fixed price paid for electricity produced by a renewable technology over a fixed term. And for many, unfortunately, this is only the price paid for solar PV.
While a sufficient price is necessary for the rapid development of renewables, price alone is insufficient. Successful renewable energy policy requires a full suite of complimentary measures, most notably that access to the grid be quick, easy, and inexpensive.
Most renewable energy advocates overlook the sub-title of Germany's Renewable Energy Sources Act: the "The Act on Granting Priority to Renewable Energy". The authors wanted to make the law's purpose and intent clear from the title alone, so there would be no ambiguity. They could have used deceptive euphemisms like those so popular on this side of the Atlantic, such as "The Full Employment and Jobs for Americans Act" to mask their intent. Instead, they wanted it to be clear to all stakeholders, and to their parliamentary colleagues, that the law required that renewables be given the "right to connect", and the "right to sell electricity to the grid" as well as priority over electricity from fossil-fired and nuclear generation. The success of the German program is as much about the right to connect and to sell electricity as it is about the specific payment per kilowatt-hour for each technology.
Nevertheless, without a price that permits profitable development no one will build renewable generation and connect to the grid. Price remains critical, and for that reason, I've summarized below some of the prices paid--the tariffs--for various technologies during the first year of operation.
Renewable Tariffs & Heritage Resources
The tariffs in the following tables are arranged from the highest to the lowest and are not sorted alphabetically. The reason for this is to help the reader gain a quick grasp of what is being paid for a particular technology around the world.
Consequently, it is important to note the difference between these posted prices and the price of generation from "heritage", or existing, sources. In most cases, renewable tariffs are higher than those of heritage resources. There's good reason for this. Renewable tariffs pay only for new generation. The capital cost of heritage sources have often, if not nearly always, already been recovered--some many times over. Thus, the price paid for heritage generation is very low in comparison to the price needed to pay for electricity from newly installed generators like a new nuclear plant, a new coal plant, or a new wind plant. This distinction is often lost on policymakers and even on some in the electric utility industry and its regulators.
Best practice worldwide is to offer contracts for a period, or term, of 20 to 25 years. Some jurisdictions are successful with terms of 15 years. Some, such as Ontario, offer terms of as much as 40 years for long-lived technologies such as hydro.