Surprise! People Like Free Things Like Solar Power Subsidies

This is a finding from the very Annals Of The Extraordinary. People like to have free things and in the absence of that they’d like other people to pay for at least part of whatever it is. As we’ll all agree, such an interesting and unusual insight into the human species. This all applies to solar power. We all think it’s just loverlly, we’d kiss ourselves to have it. As long as someone else pays for it.

Which isn’t quite what is said here but is what is meant:

More than half of the British public would install solar panels and home batteries to tackle climate change if there was greater assistance from the government, polling has found.

Greater assistance here means higher feed in tariffs, lower priced loans, greater grants, all the various ways in which other people will pay for that adornment to the solar panel owners’s house.

Think on it a moment, many of us would rather like something else if we didn’t have to pay for it. Anything from another beer up to that nice little flat in Antibes for the occasional weekend. Why should solar panels be any different, the answer being that they’re not. Given that this is so it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the idea that we should be having more solar power though, is it?

James Thornton, CEO of environmental law group ClientEarth, which commissioned the research, said: “Government policy is plainly at odds with public sentiment – and its own ambition to tackle climate change – as far as our energy sources are concerned.

“People want to know more and take ownership of how they get their energy – that’s clearly demonstrated by the broad support in the poll for household solar and community energy schemes.”

How about a little deal here Jimmy? People want to take ownership then they pay for it. Eh? Then we’ll see how much they really do want it all. Expressed preferences meaning not quite as much as those preferences revealed when one has to splash ones’ own cash.

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TDQuentin VoleSpike Recent comment authors
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Don’t forget being empowered to inject home-grown electricity onto the grid and deduct it, off the top, from your electric bill (though you cannot put your backyard apples into the bin at the supermarket and receive a credit for the full retail price). This recurring American effort to set prices wrong is what props up many municipal solar projects.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole

It’s by no means confined to America, unfortunately. And solar panels, installed at temperate latitudes, struggle to produce as much energy during their working life as was consumed during their manufacture (EROEI <1). In Arizona or Texas, where max output coincides with max demand (for aircon), they might be effective in reducing total CO2 emissions (assuming that's something we care about). In Washington state or Manchester (whichever side of the pond), not so much.


Wasn’t it Lincoln who said that any system that robs Peter to pay Paul can count on the support of Paul.


Wasn’t it Lincoln who said that any system that robs Peter to pay Paul can count on the support of Paul.