Friday, January 28, 2011

France’s Solar Bubble Pops

Unfortunately, many of the bright ideas thought up by academics and politicians don't work and have disastrous unintended consequences. I like the comment by the French lawmaker, "we didn't see it coming". This is true of many of the bright ideas that become law both here in the US and overseas. It is the ordinary citizens and taxpayers that bear the brunt of all this waste and regulation.

Maybe France and Spain have learned their lesson, and will back away from the foolish notion that wind and solar can replace carbon fuels in the near future at an affordable price. Obviously Obama and the liberal Democrats refuse to learn anything from the bankrupt socialist laboratories in Europe.

Two years ago, the National Assembly adopted one of those solar “feed-in tariffs” — a cute misnomer for a mandate that forces utilities to buy expensive renewable electricity at ridiculously high prices. Flush with visions for the solar future, the legislature set the price at 546 euros per megawatt-hour, almost ten times the market price of 55 euros that customers pay for electricity from other sources. Electricitie de France (EDF), the national utility, was obligated to buy from all comers, covering the costs with a special levy on other customers.

The result was an avalanche of expensive rooftop projects. Whereas EDF had received only 7,100 applications a year for such connections before 2008, by last December it was fielding 3,000 per day. “We didn’t see it coming,” French lawmaker Francois-Michel Gonnog told Bloomberg News. “What is in the pipeline this year is unimaginable. Farmers were being told they could put panels on hangars and get rid of their cows.” The government cut the price support twice last year but was finally forced to impose a three-month suspension in December.

The utility is now 57 billion euros in debt. Plans to upgrade its aging fleet of 53 nuclear reactors — which provide 75 percent of France’s electricity — have been thrown into doubt.

France seems to have created its bubble out of sheer delusions over the “renewable future.” “Most panels installed in France were made in China with a highly questionable carbon footprint,” Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told parliament last month. “Policies should create jobs in France, not subsidize Chinese industry.”

They should also recognize that running the world on solar energy is a disastrously expensive fantasy.

Read full National Review article here.

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