The Washington Post headlined a story in today’s edition, “In Ontario, Making ‘Clean Energy’ Pay.” From what I gather reading the article, they have in fact discovered how to make renewable energy pay in Ontario, at least if by “clean energy” you mean “other people’s wallets.”
The story kicks off with a solar panel installer saying the good news he has for consumers is that it will no longer take 50 years to recoup the cost of an investment in roof-top panels. The reason? The Ontario provincial government has ordered local utilities to pay as much as 42 cents a kw/h for excess solar power produced by consumers. Wind, hydro, or bio-electric production will pay 11 to 14.5 cents a kw/h. The article notes that “power sells at an average of about 5.8 cents” in the region, so the program is requiring local utilities to “buy high, sell low.”
Earlier this week the Raleigh News & Observer ran several articles on clean energy enthusiasts. (See Pioneers generate their own juice, Sunshine keeps his green house humming, Passive solar house is a model of efficiency, and Off the power grid completely.) In two of the cases, government subsidies are involved (“He recouped much of the investment through government incentive programs”; “the family expects to recoup about 80 percent of their $15,000 investment over five years through federal and state incentives”). The third case – a couple living completely off the grid – doesn’t mention subsidies, but does provide some idea of the costs:
The solar and wind equipment cost $45,000. One way to look at it is that this exotic hobby costs Carter $150 a month over a 25-year period. Another view: It’s outrageously expensive and impractical.
“If you’re off the grid, you not only have to be efficient, you have to be ultra-efficient, because your power is costing five times more than your neighbor’s,” Carter said.