Barriers To Renewable Energy Technologies Environmental Sciences Essay

Renewable energy engineerings have an tremendous potency in the United States and that possible can be realized at a sensible cost. Market research shows that many clients will buy renewable power even if it costs slightly more than conventional power. [ 1 ] However, both economic theory and experience point to important market barriers and market failures that will restrict the development of renewables unless particular policy steps are enacted to promote that development. [ 2 ] A These hurdlings can be grouped into four classs:

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commercialisation barriers faced by new engineerings viing with mature engineerings

monetary value deformations from bing subsidies and unequal revenue enhancement loads between renewables and other energy beginnings

failure of the market to value the public benefits of renewables

market barriers such as unequal information, deficiency of entree to capital, “ split inducements ” between edifice proprietors and renters, and high dealing costs for doing little purchases

Commercialization Barriers

To vie against mature dodo fuel and atomic engineerings renewables must get the better of two major barriers to commercialisation: undeveloped substructure and deficiency of economic systems of graduated table.


Developing new renewable resources will necessitate big initial investings to construct substructure. These investings increase the cost of supplying renewable electricity, particularly during early old ages. Examples include

Prospecting: Developers must happen publically acceptable sites with good resources and with entree to transmittal lines. Potential air current sites can necessitate several old ages of monitoring to find whether they are suited.

Permiting: A Permitting issues for conventional energy engineerings are by and large good understood, and the procedure and criterions for reappraisal are good defined. In contrast, renewables frequently involve new types of issues and ecosystem impacts. And criterions are still in the procedure of development.

Selling: In the yesteryear, persons had no picks about the beginnings of their electricity. But electricity deregulating has opened the market so that clients have a assortment of picks. Start-up companies must pass on the benefits of renewables to clients in order to carry them to exchange from traditional beginnings. Public instruction will be a critical portion of a to the full working market if renewables are to win.

Installation, operation, and care: A Workers must be trained to put in, run, and keep new engineerings, every bit good as to turn and transport biomass fuels. Some renewables need runing experience in regional clime conditions before public presentation can be optimized. For illustration, the optimum spacing of air current turbines is likely to be different on New England ridgelines than on agricultural land in the Midwest.

Economies of Scale

Most renewable energy engineerings are manufactured on assembly lines, where mass production can greatly cut down costs. As of the late ninetiess, fabrication costs for photovoltaics had declined 20 to 25 per centum for each doubling of production volume, as illustrated in the figure. [ 3 ] A The Spire Corporation, which makes assembly lines for fabricating photovoltaic faculties, says that costs for photovoltaic faculties can be reduced from about $ 2.25 per W to $ 1.80 per W simply by scaling up photovoltaic mills so that alternatively of fabricating 10 MW of photovoltaics per twelvemonth, they make 25 MW per year.A [ 4 ] A Economies of graduated table are besides likely to take to be decreases for air current, fuel cell, and biomass engineerings. Unfortunately, every bit long as comparatively few units are produced, monetary values will stay high. This leads to low demand, and hence low production volumes. This chicken-and-egg job is particularly hard with engineerings that have long lives. [ 5 ] A However, scaling up fabrication of new engineerings excessively rapidly can make its ain jobs, such as deficits of skilled labour and constrictions in parts supplies.

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Unequal Government Subsidies and Taxes

Compared with renewables, atomic and fossil fuel engineerings enjoy a considerable advantage in authorities subsidies for research and development.A [ 6 ]

A 1980 Pacific Northwest Laboratory study found that, of $ 516 billion spent on energy subsidies through 1978, 50 per centum had gone to oil, 25 per centum to electricity, and 25 per centum to atomic, hydro, gas, and coal.A [ 7 ]

A 1992 Energy Information Administration survey found that, during financial twelvemonth 1992, direct federal subsidies totaled $ 8 billion, with renewables ( except ethyl alcohol for transit ) having approximately one-third every bit much as coal and less than one-fourth every bit much as natural gas. Another $ 3.1 billion in indirect subsidies went to the oil industry.A [ 8 ]

For financial twelvemonth 1996, Congress appropriated $ 422 million for fossil fuels, $ 227 million for atomic merger, $ 252 million for atomic fission, $ 400 million for atomic waste ( merely half of which is paid for by atomic waste fees on generators ) , but merely $ 273 million for all renewable energy engineerings combined.A [ 9 ]

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In add-on to having subsidies for research and development, conventional bring forthing engineerings have a lower revenue enhancement load. Fuel expenditures can be deducted from nonexempt income, but few renewables benefit from this tax write-off, since most do non utilize market-supplied fuels. Income and belongings revenue enhancements are higher for renewables, which require big capital investings but have low fuel and operating disbursals. A 1996 survey by Resources for the Future found that the entire revenue enhancement load of natural gas installations is merely 0.507A?/kWh ( in 1993 dollars ) , compared with 1.521A?/kWh for biomass generators.A [ 10 ] A Even if the renewable energy production revenue enhancement recognition were counted ( no biomass workss had qualified as of 1998 ) , the revenue enhancement load would be over 50 per centum higher than for a natural gas plant.A [ 11 ] The revenue enhancement load for air current energy is about every bit high as for biomass.A [ 12 ]

A survey by the Energy Information Administration found that renewable energy development is farther inhibited by a “ depletion allowance ” for oil, natural gas, and coal providers, which resulted in a federal revenue enhancement gross loss of $ 745 million in 1992. The depletion allowance allows companies to subtract the “ loss ” of fuels that have been mined or drilled.A [ 13 ] Furthermore, revenue enhancement jurisprudence allows fossil fuel manufacturers to compose off certain geographic expedition and development costs instead than capitalising and deprecating them over clip. These write-downs, in combination with other inducements, promote domestic geographic expedition and development. While this has resulted in increased production within the United States and lower oil monetary values, it may besides hold both diverted capital from more productive activities, such as energy efficiency investings, every bit good as constrained the growing of renewable energy.


Market Failure to Value Public Benefits of Renewables

Many of the benefits of renewables described before in this primer are public benefits that accrue to everyone — A what economic experts call “ public goods. ” A For illustration, those who choose renewables cut down pollution for everyone and supply an environmental benefit to the populace at big. A client who is willing to pay more for electricity from renewables still has to take a breath the same air as the neighbour who might take non to pay more. Public goods do non actuate everyone who benefits to pay for them, if they can take to be “ free riders ” who benefit from the parts of others.

Employment, fuel diverseness, monetary value stableness, and other indirect economic benefits of renewables besides accrue to society as a whole. [ 14 ] A For illustration, for a big industrial client, it may do more sense to put on the line traveling to another part in response to additions in fuel monetary values instead than pay more for renewables to stabilise regional monetary values. While this scheme may profit the single house, it is likely to ache the part ‘s long-run economic fight. In the same manner, houses that can go through on additions in energy costs to clients may besides miss an inducement to diversify fuel beginnings, even though investing in renewables would stabilise monetary values over the longer term.

Research and development that produces social benefits, but has small consequence on a company ‘s underside line, will be particularly undervalued in restructured markets. Although R & A ; D is likely to go on in a competitory electricity industry, and the desire to supply client pick is likely to speed up some inventions, research will likely switch to those countries with the fastest payback and those that allow companies to crush out rivals in the short term. Private support is likely to dwindle for research with benefits that are chiefly public or that do non ensue in a comparatively speedy payback, chiefly to the funder.

Some research indicates that people will be willing to pay more for public benefits than economic theory would propose. But investing in engineerings where much of the payback does non accrue to the person doing the investing will ever be less than the optimum investing for society.A [ 15 ] A Two-thirdss of electricity produced is used by commercial and industrial clients. While some of these clients may besides pay more for cleaner electricity beginnings, many will not.A [ 16 ]

For these grounds, renewables will be unable to vie on a flat playing field with conventional coevals until new policies are adopted to internalise the public costs of these dodos fuel beginnings. Emission fees or caps on entire pollution, with tradable emanation licenses, are illustrations of ways to internalise the costs of pollution, making a more flat sphere for renewables.

Market Barriers

Renewable energy engineerings face considerable barriers in market minutess.

Lack of Information

Customers may hold deficient information to do informed picks. Most public-service corporations provide small or no information about their emanations or the fuels they use. Because renewable engineerings are comparatively new, most clients know small about them. Many clients, for illustration, may believe that solar and air current engineerings are undependable because they are available merely when the Sun is reflecting or the air current is blowing. They are improbable to be cognizant that these intermittent engineerings can be extremely dependable when combined with other options.

Institutional Barriers

Commercial and industrial clients are besides by and large unfamiliar with renewables and have institutional barriers to buying renewables. Industrial energy directors are trained merely to happen low-priced solutions. Industrial environmental directors look for ways to cut down in-house pollution and are improbable to see pollution associated with their electricity purchases.

Even local electricity companies may be unfamiliar with renewables. Most public-service corporations have non studied how renewable resources could suit into their systems or what local resources are available. For illustration, few have investigated how the end product of solar and air current engineerings matches their system peak burden.

Small Size

Renewables undertakings and companies are by and large little. Therefore they have fewer resources than big coevals companies or incorporate public-service corporations. These little companies are less able to pass on straight with big Numberss of clients. They will hold less clout negociating favourable footings with larger market participants. And they are less able to take part in regulative or legislative proceedings, or in industry forums specifying new electricity market regulations.

High Transaction Costss

Small undertakings have high dealing costs at many phases of the development rhythm. For illustration, it costs more for fiscal establishments to measure the credit-worthiness of many little undertakings than of one big undertaking. It costs sellers more to negociate contracts with many little undertakings, and to market to and subscribe up residential clients, who are the most likely section to pay more for renewables.

High Financing Costss

Renewables developers and clients may hold trouble obtaining funding at rates every bit low as may be available for conventional energy installations. In add-on to holding higher dealing costs, fiscal establishments are by and large unfamiliar with the new engineerings and likely to comprehend them as hazardous, so that they may impart money at higher rates. High funding costs are particularly important to the competitory place of renewables, since renewables by and large require higher initial investings than fossil fuel workss, even though they have lower operating costs. A survey by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory found that funding costs can greatly impact the monetary value and fight of air current energy, since most of the cost is in capital and small is in operation. The survey besides found that funding costs for solar panels could ensue in solar coevals monetary values every bit low as 15.2A?/kWh for publically owned public-service corporations and every bit high as 43.1A?/kWh for a private developer utilizing undertaking financing.A [ 17 ]

Split Incentives

When renewables are used locally to supply power to single edifices and concerns through photovoltaics, fuel cells, or little air current turbines, they encounter extra market barriers. Landlords ain some of the most cost-efficient edifice sites, but are improbable to put in equipment merely so renters can recognize energy nest eggs. And renters may non hold the right to modify the belongings or the involvement in doing a long-run investing.

Few public-service corporations consider the full value of distributed bring forthing engineerings. A little renewable energy system located in a vicinity with turning electricity usage can assist avoid investings to upgrade transmittal or distribution lines to the vicinity. But public-service corporation coevals planning sections by and large consider merely the cost of bring forthing electricity with a distributed engineering, non the possible nest eggs in transmittal and distribution costs. Transmission and distribution contrivers consider merely the costs of alternate transmittal and distribution engineerings. Because planning is done in separate sections, no 1 looks at the possible incorporate value of a solar faculty in avoiding all three: coevals and transmittal and distribution outgos. Renewable engineerings are sometimes cost-efficient when this integrated value is considered. In a restructured industry where distribution, transmittal, and coevals are all in separate companies, be aftering for distributed coevals may be even less likely than antecedently, unless policymakers provide important inducements.

Transmission Costss

Renewables may besides be charged higher transmittal costs than conventional engineerings or may be capable to other prejudiced grid policies. For illustration, a system that requires generators to reserve a block of capacity in progress may coerce an intermittent generator, like solar or air current, to pay for the maximal end product they can bring forth at any minute. Most of the clip, nevertheless, an intermittent resource generates at less than its maximal possible capacity. Since a air current farm produces, on norm, merely about a 3rd of the clip, it could hold to pay three times more per kilowatt hr transmitted than a conventional works designed to bring forth at full capacity all the clip.

Another job is foretelling the exact clip and measure of power for bringing, since air current velocities or sunlight can be hard to foretell more than a twenty-four hours or two in progress. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommends a punishment if energy bringings vary 1.5 per centum from scheduled amounts.A [ 18 ] A A Remotely located renewable resources may besides hold to pay to a great extent in transmittal pricing strategies that charge harmonizing to distance or in those that charge “ pancaked ” rates, which depend on the figure of public-service corporation districts crossed.

Green Market Limits

Given the legion barriers confronting renewables in the competitory market, how large the green electricity market is or could go is unsure. Some initial marks are promoting ; others are less so. Survey after study shows strong client penchant for green electricity.A [ 19 ] A Market research besides shows distinguishable market sections of clients interested in purchasing environmentally preferred merchandises by and large. Green markets for other merchandises — including nutrient, paper, cleaners, vesture, computing machines, furniture, and places — are besides emerging. Of all new merchandises introduced in 1996, 12 per centum made environmental selling claims, harmonizing to one market researcher.A [ 20 ] A In some instances, green merchandises have transformed markets ; for illustration, phosphate-containing detergents are no longer available in Europe.

Some electricity pick pilot undertakings have shown encouraging consequences. In Massachusetts, for illustration, 31 per centum of residential clients exerting pick in a carefully controlled pilot plan picked a merchandise advertised as green.A [ 21 ] A In an Oregon pilot, 15 per centum of clients taking among four options chose a 100 per centum renewables product.A [ 22 ] A And some concern clients have shown involvement in picking green options over the lowest-price options. In Traverse City, Michigan, little commercial clients voluntarily contributed as much money toward a air current turbine as residential clients did.A [ 23 ] A IBM, Coors, and other big industrial clients are take parting in a Colorado air current energy program.A [ 24 ] A Toyota has chosen a 100 per centum renewables merchandise for its four California offices.A [ 25 ]

Other marks are less hopeful. Many fewer people really choose to purchase green electricity than say they would if they could. Where public-service corporations have offered “ green pricing, ” no more than 3 per centum of all residential clients have participated — A in some instances less than 1 per centum. [ 26 ] A One of import ground why engagement rates have been much lower than study responses is that people have a strong penchant for everyone to lend to renewables. In an October 1998 canvass of Texas Utilities clients, 88 per centum said they would be willing to pay more for renewables. However, 79 per centum preferred that all public-service corporation clients pay at least some of the added costs, whereas merely 17 per centum wanted to trust merely on green-pricing.A [ 27 ] A More significantly, commercial and industrial clients — which use about two-thirds of all the electricity that ‘s generated — are more likely to be concerned about monetary value than about the environment.A [ 28 ]

Newly deregulated markets where clients do non hold to take providers may confront considerable inactiveness. Fifteen old ages after long-distance telephone deregulating, 54 per centum of clients have ne’er exercised pick and more than two-thirds are still with AT & A ; T.A [ 29 ] While environmental factors will bring on some clients to exchange electricity providers, many clients are likely to happen the complexness of weighing monetary value and environmental factors more confusing than telephone picks. And, since selling costs to bring on exchanging are likely to be high, they will likely absorb a significant portion of the green premium clients are willing to pay.

The most optimistic green sellers expect that every bit many as 20 per centum of residential clients and 10 per centum of commercial clients will purchase green electricity five old ages after competition has been introduced in a given market.A [ 30 ] A Such consequences could take to meaningful new renewable resource development, particularly in markets where there are non big sums of bing renewables that need market support. However, they would still intend that 80 to 90 per centum of clients were non lending to renewable electricity coevals, even though they could be having benefits of clean air, fuel diverseness, monetary value stableness, and increased economic development from renewables. Policy mechanisms are needed to maximise these public benefits, every bit good as to guarantee the development of every bit robust a green market as possible.

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Smart Energy Solutions: Increase Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is dependable, low-cost, and good for our wellness, our economic system, and our environment. By increasing renewable energy, we can:

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Cut planetary heating emanations

Create new occupations and industries

Diversify our power supply

Decrease dependance on coal and other dodo fuels

Move America toward a cleansing agent, healthier energy hereafter

UCS supports practical, cost-efficient policies that promote renewable energy and lower barriers to its acceptance. These include strong renewable electricity criterions, fiscal inducements like clean energy revenue enhancement credits, and investing in a smarter electrical grid.

hypertext transfer protocol: // the Power of Renewable Energy

We have the engineerings and resources to reliably bring forth at least 40 per centum of our electricity from renewable energy beginnings within the following 20 old ages. We can bring forth that electricity from a assortment of sustainable beginnings, with air current and solar power presently sing the fastest growing.

Learn more:

Renewable Energy Technologies

Renewable Electricity Standards: A Success Story

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A Renewable Electricity Standard ( RES ) -also called a Renewable Portfolio Standard- requires public-service corporation companies to obtain a certain per centum of their electricity from renewable beginnings. UCS has worked with communities across the state to set up province criterions, and to day of the month about two-thirds of provinces have established them-with many meeting or transcending their ends in front of agenda.

UCS works to beef up these bing criterions, expand RES policies to new provinces, and proctor attempts at the federal degree to set up a national clean energy criterion.

Learn more:

Real Energy Solutions: The Renewable Electricity Standard

Renewable Electricity Standard FAQ

Renewable Electricity Standard: A Bipartisan Policy

Renewable Energy Standards — Extenuating Global Warming

National Renewable Electricity Standard Campaign

Clean Energy, Green Jobs: The Benefits of a National Renewable Electricity Standard ( 2009 )

Renewable Electricity Standards at Work in the States

State Renewable Electricity Standard Cost Analysis – UCS Factsheet

Renewable Electricity Standards Toolkit

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