What China's 2 GW Solar Plans Say About US Energy Policy

| Wed Sep. 9, 2009 4:11 PM EDT

You'd think we'd get tired of China kicking our collective ass, after, oh, the last three decades.

But you would be wrong.

Apparently our leaders (cough, cough) don't have a problem with our economy perpetually shedding jobs like a Husky sheds fur in June. Perhaps it's because Congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats have so much loot from corporate donors padding their posteriors. Maybe they don't feel the boot on their butt the way working stiffs do.

The hardest recent blow came yesterday and was duly celebrated by the media: A US-based company announced plans to build the world's largest solar power plant. In China. At two gigawatts, the planned facility would have a generating capacity more than three times greater than the current #1 (in Spain).

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of solar power and renewable energy in general. I publish an online news service on solar power, after all. And I certainly don't have a problem with China going solar in a big way. The GHGs this project will eliminate helps the whole planet.

I don't even have a problem with the American company, First Solar, building more manufacturing plants in Malaysia and China. That's where the markets are, so it benefits everyone to build the panels nearby.

But, here's my problem: The Chinese are going great guns on solar precisely because their government embraces policies to help renewable energy achieve "grid parity" -- that is, economic competitiveness with polluting, global warming, catastrophically risky, disease-inducing, death-hastening sources of energy.

And we don't. Simple as that.

A final kicker (pun very much intended): The Chinese are using capitalist measures (incentives) to overcome the market's failure to internalize the true costs of burning coal.

We, on the other hand, have allowed industries to usurp the role of government and make command-and-control decisions that affect millions of workers and their families, the very air we breathe and the water we drink.

Call it government or call it industry, centralized power is still a bitch.

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The full story of the enormous solar plant in China, including the SEC documents that spell out the details, is located here.

 

 

 

 

 

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