Carl, if Anonymous is the one I have sparred with the past, which his tone suggests he is, you should expect vague arguments that purport to defend the interests of utility customers without providing any evidence that they need or want defending. His favorite victims are Germans, a technologically very capable group who are fully aware of and readily accept the near term increased costs of abandoning nuclear power for the long term benefit of a clean, sustainable environment. Perhaps Anonymous fell asleep several years ago and hasn't noticed the dramatic shift in German public opinion that Fukushima inspired.
That German utilities are replacing nuclear power generation with coal is no secret or surprise. Nuclear has become verboten and, until renewable generation and storage can be scaled up dramatically, they have no other reliable source. Criticizing them for using coal instead of natural gas ignores the fact that Germany is poorly endowed with liquid or gaseous carbon and its most important supplier is Russia which, from evidence out of Ukraine and elsewhere, presents a risky dependency.
As this article reports, Germany is working to circumvent the conundrum by developing a variety of energy storage methods. Even Anonymous admits, even insists, that storage is the answer. He just seems to feel that renewables should be abandoned until that time comes.
Storage capacity should be in units of energy, i.e. watt-hours, which relates to the size of the storage. Watts are units of power, which relates to the size of the cables. Perhaps we are meant to just assume megawatts is shorthand for megawatt-hours (MWh) when referring to storage.
Nobody should be surprised at increased consumer cost during early implementation of renewable technologies before they have been developed and scaled up enough to be cheaper than their polluting competitors. What is surprising, in the face of outcry from opponents, is that the increase is so small - less than 1%. Given the decades of very low cost service - wind and sun are, themselves, free - and the avoided costs of health care and remediation due to fossil carbon extraction and use, renewables will, in the medium to long term, save money, just not for the Koch brothers.
Steven, what is your opinion of Cliff Claven's proposal that we should burn all of the fossil carbon and then switch to nuclear? You two appear to share some other views.
The major objective of CleanTech is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Minimizing and comparing the costs of various technologies that shift the world from fossil to renewable energy will, ideally, provide the most effective paths. But the cost of doing nothing far exceeds that of some less than perfect selections. Ratepayers have a legitimate stake in how both central and distributed renewable generation are paid for, but they should not have the choice of doing nothing.
I feel the author has fairly presented the potential benefits and caveats of pricing solar by value.
Steven, I assume you are referring to VOS (Value of Solar) rather than VOC (volatile organic compounds?).
First, I agree that nuclear should not just be abandoned in the US as Germany is doing. It is, however, very expensive and certainly not sustainable. Supplying all of our energy needs with new reactors is inconceivable considering the unsolved problems of waste disposal, proliferation risk and public aversion. China's experiments might show that thorium is feasible but I wouldn't bet on it.
"Why should solar PV be priced this way (via a VOC) but not wind power (or any other product)?"
Sorry, nothing I've seen in the supporting documentation (http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/images/MN-VOS-Methodology-FINAL.pdf) gives any clue whether VOW or VOAOP might follow if VOS works out.
"And why should this market distortion be funded by ratepayers, ..."
Residential electricity is nowhere near a pure market. Because consumers are not in a position to assess the potential benefits of, in this case, solar electricity, or, in most places, choose among providers, the PUC directs the market, presumably in the best interest of ratepayers. But even the PUC cannot evaluate the full effect adding solar. VOS provides a detailed and, one hopes, objective tool to do that at least for the near term, and responds to utilities' complaints that net metering is a distortion. The underlying assumption is that steadily falling solar manufacturing and installation costs (there are virtually no operating costs) and a fair price on carbon will, in the near to medium term, make solar cheaper than fossil fueled electricity. If so, the utilities save money and Minnesotans win.
Steven, what evidence is there that VOS will triple or even double electricity costs? Net metering, the scheme on which VOS is said to be an improvement, has been available in California for many years with no such increase. Even non-solar customers here can substantially reduce their bills by choosing TOU metering and avoiding heavy usage during peak periods. I have little sympathy for people who refuse to invest in energy efficiency in their homes and rather run the A/C all day.
Steven, one might mistakenly assume from your comments that non-solar customers' rates could triple as a result of utilities compensating solar customers based on the value of their production. But if properly calculated, the VOS payments made by the utility just balance the value they gain. There is no reason for those transactions to effect anybody else. According to http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2014/03/12/minnesota-becomes-first-state-to-set-value-of-solar-tariff/, deputy commisioner for energy Bill Grant said, "The goal as I see it with the value of solar is to find that point... at which everyone should be indifferent about whether this rate is imposed or not".
Mr Claven's arguments make perfect sense if you subscribe to his view that we should burn all the fossil carbon then switch to nuclear. If you accept the IPCC's assessment of high risk in exceeding a 2°C increase, then such a course is unacceptable and no argument that even allows much less promotes it makes sense.
According to http://www.edisonfoundation.net/iei/Documents/Electricity_Prices_Increasing_Brattle.pdf, "Fuel and purchased power cost increases have been enormous and are the largest cause of recent electric cost increases." Capital investments in distribution of renewable, virtually free energy will provide similarly enormous cost savings in the medium and long term.
With solar electricity costs still falling significantly, it is already superior to fossil fuels in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and, especially compared to coal, far better for airborne particulates, even at relatively high latitudes such as those of northern Europe, most of which is north of Minnesota. Projected productive lifetimes of 20-25 years allow plenty of time to recover the energy cost of manufacture and installation. Subsidies are an appropriate role of government to promote the long term health and financial interests of its citizens.