Cost of Renewable Energy May Cause Resistance among Consumers
Cost associated with renewable energy could be the fly in the ointment in moving the country from reliance on fossil fuels to using alternative energy from renewable fuels. Much is discussed about the lack of emissions when using solar panels or wind turbines to produce electricity but cost of electric power from these sources is not frequently mentioned.
Mass manufacturing has already lowered the cost of installation of solar panels and research will hopefully find a less expensive way to store the energy produced during the day to provide power when the sun is not shining or the wind dies down. Currently, adding a storage method to a solar energy installation in your home will add 30% or more to the cost of the system.
As an individual solar installation designed to power all the system in an average home is already costlier than installing a standard HVAC system, the storage options make solar quite expensive.
Currently, the cost of renewable energy to consumers is not much discussed yet additional government regulations continue to be added. Concerned about carbon dioxide emissions, Congress has passed many regulatory rules meant to promote sustainable energy from clean natural resources.
In a booming economy, this would be the perfect time to rapidly expand our use of renewable energy. The subject is popular with the public, people have become accustomed to idea of a change in the way power is produced and the environmental concerns are shared by almost everyone.
This is not a booming economy and that will pose a problem for developers of new solar installations and wind farms meant to provide electricity to a commercial power grid.
Consumers may accept the concept of alternative energy sources but may balk at the price of the electricity produced. Three years of a recessionary economy have left consumers reeling.
What many don't realize is the new regulations that place more restrictive limits on greenhouse gases will require utility companies to retrofit plants with expensive new equipment and and result in rising costs of power. Of course, rising fossil fuel costs may seem more reasonable. That is not reassuring for consumers.
Another pricing concern is a proposed quota for renewable energy sources with federal agencies attempting to move to renewable energy by requiring certain percentages by specific dates.
Wind and solar are more expensive than the fossil fuels they may replace. With penalties and special equipment for reduce emissions further and requirements that utilities utilize renewable energy, prices for electricity can only increase for a time.
So far, cost studies have focused on large cost for commercial power plants. Wind energy is estimated to cost almost 1/3 more than coal and about 15% more than natural gas.
Thermal solar energy that uses the heat of the run to create steam to turn a turbine would cost three times as much as energy produced by a coal fired plant and twice the cost of natural gas. In fact, such a solar energy plant would create electricity costing double that of a wind powered plant.
Perhaps the trick to building renewable energy plants is for fossil fuel electricity production costs to rise drastically. For those dedicated to stopping the use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, this might be acceptable.
For consumers, the cost may be more than they can handle in a struggling economy. The numbers can be hard to predict due to the price fluctuation normal to fossil fuels but plants scheduled to go online in 2015 may meet resistance from the public.
Calculating the cost is further complicated by self protection on the part of companies involved in the fossil fuel industry. From miners to truckers there are many jobs involved in providing fossil fuel.
Businesses that sell coal or oil will often under quote costs in an effort to protect the company's interests. There are indirect costs of fossil fuel use that are not calculated. These include the damage to the environment caused by strip mining and oil spills.
As if there are not enough concerns about the cost of renewable energy, there is also the question of who will pay the increased costs of alternative energy.
There are calls for Congress to address what is called the "social issue" and provide subsidies for low income consumers. The problem is that electricity is a bigger percentage of a low income family's budget than it is for a high wage earner.
An increase in cost places a bigger burden on low and middle income families and there are efforts underway to address the issue. At the same time, consumers are skeptical of any legislation today that provides benefits only to one sector of society.
This guarantees such a regulation to subsidize renewable energy for a certain group of people will lead to an outcry from others who do not receive the benefit.