The Other Intermittency of Renewables

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

We often hear about how certain renewable energy sources are intermittent. But that is not the only indeterminacy they should be associated with. Government spends on energy, we know that. But in terms of cleaner and renewable energy, there has also been intermittent approach to it. Typically, government spends on renewables when things go bad in the traditional fuel market place. However, then when those traditional sources become widely available, government spending on renewables decreases. This is why it is so damaging to have such a partisan political process, especially with regard to energy. An example of this was Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan. Carter had set goals for advanced use of solar in the U.S. and provided spending and support for the growth of renewable energy markets. However, when Reagan came into office, this idea changed. The growth of these renewables were associated with Carter and so not a very attractive commitment. Additionally, the case for self-production of fossil fuels were advocated and in conjunction with the falling prices of fossil fuels, renewables lost the support and the development.

Renewable and clean energy growth needs to be associated with both parties for real change to occur. We have to be able to have consistent policy on the importance of growing alternatives power supplies to allow for these markets to develop. This is not going to be profitable right away. We are going to have to spend money to do this, and where the spending comes from depends on what we choose to use as policy. In another post I will explore some of these policies, but for now I will refrain.

The figure shows how in more than thirty years, the commitment to renewable energy is lacking. Had we taken a dedicated approach to this back then, it is very possible we would be in a much better situation today. Not to mention the way the world would be changed. Our R&D would have resulted in innovations that applied to rest of the world as well as us. Emissions and environmental damage would be seriously reduced.

This is a rather important thing to understand because renewables need to acquire economies of scale to become a viable solution. Start-and-Stop policy makes it difficult to get actual development that persists long-term, which is needed to drive the development of the market. When we look at regions where policy has been relatively stable for long periods of time, such as Germany, the renewable market does much better and experiences significant growth. I would hope that we can find a stable approach to development of these markets and urge everyone to remove this important issue from our partisan political nature. Both parties need to accept the importance of this and commit to the development of the market. So move beyond the partisan fog, for this issue at least, and then analyze what you think government should do with regard for spending.

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