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America's clean energy policies need a reality check, say Stanford researchers
Date:5/1/2012

in the most economically efficient way is for the country to exploit globalization rather than fight it, Ball writes. Despite mounting trade-war tensions with China over wind and solar power, he writes: "If the goal of the renewable-power push is a cleaner, more diversified power supply, then low-cost solar equipment, from China or anywhere else, is a good thing."

In the fast-globalizing clean-energy industry, Ball writes, the United States should press its advantage in engineering, high-value manufacturing, installation and finance. "Much of the machinery used in Chinese solar-panel factories today is made in America," he writes. Installation remains a domestic business, and the U.S. financial system allows homeowners to install rooftop solar panels at no upfront cost. Ball notes that two other energy shifts will be at least as important as renewable sources: cleaning up the process of burning of fossil fuels, which provide most of the world's energy; and using energy from all sources more efficiently.

Nevertheless, Ball writes, America's renewable-energy tax credits need to be changed. He and Yanosek agree the current credits have contributed to an inefficient, boom-and-bust approach to renewable energy.

Yanosek writes that smarter government polices could help innovative technologies overcome what she describes as the main financial barrier the "commercialization gap." To do this, though, politicians and taxpayers must realize that government efforts to help accelerate an energy transition will require massive and risky investments, she says. A project like building a next-generation nuclear power station or a new type of utility-scale solar thermal plant can require hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars.

The commercialization gap

After developers show that new technologies can work in prototype, they often cannot get the backing of traditional investors to build the first commercial project becau
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Contact: Mark Golden
mark.golden@stanford.edu
650-724-1629
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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