US urged to drop India WTO case on solar

Apr 23, 2014
An Indian worker sprays water onto panels of India's first 1MW canal-top solar power plant at Chandrasan village of Mehsana district, some 45 kms from Ahmedabad, April 22, 2012

Environmentalists Wednesday urged the United States to drop plans to haul India to the WTO to open its solar market, saying the action would hurt the fight against climate change.

The World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body in Geneva has scheduled Friday to hear the US case for a panel against India, which has some of the world's most ambitious plans for expanding .

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, announcing the move in February, said President Barack Obama's administration would "stand up for US workers and businesses" to break barriers to the Indian market.

He said the United States wanted to work with India on fighting climate change but that New Delhi's requirements that only locally made products be used in its solar industry had impeded cooperation.

Under the WTO process, the two countries had 30 days to work out their dispute through consultations before the United States could seek a panel to settle the dispute.

In a letter to Froman, a coalition of US environmentalists voiced "grave concerns" over the decision to move forward on the case.

They noted that it came after a UN scientific panel warned of catastrophic consequences from without immediate action to reduce carbon emissions.

"To avert climate disaster, countries must significantly scale up renewable energy development and deployment, just as India is currently doing," the letter said.

"The US should not compromise the long-term growth of the solar market just so that it can achieve limited near-term gain," said the letter, signed by 15 groups including the Sierra Club, 350.org and the US branches of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

India's has grown rapidly in the past few years as the government looks to ease reliance on imported fossil fuels and coal. India is planning what would be the world's first solar plant at Sambhar in the desert state of Rajasthan.

India has defended its solar policies as compliant with the WTO and said that a number of US states have similar rules.

The United States and China have also battled at the WTO over solar energy, with Washington accusing Beijing of unfair subsidies and the Asian power protesting against tariffs.

Explore further: New WTO challenge to Australia plain-packaging tobacco law

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Burnerjack
not rated yet Apr 23, 2014
Barriers to trade are barriers to the lowest possible prices.
Interesting that this pseudo article fails to provide details to both the complaint and India's defense. Less than nebulous. From a news journalism POV, epic fail.
Returners
3 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2014
Basically the U.S. government wants to tell India where they can and can't buy their won solar panels. It's really hypocrisy, because the people involved don't really care about fairness at all. They are just some big-wigs trying to corner another market and make money for themselves.

If the U.S. government ran itself like a publicly owned corporation, which it should do, it would be able to have a balanced budget even with the present level of spending on services. The key is very simple: Invest in buying land and creating government-owned wind and solar farms, and sell the energy at cost plus 10%. This would be cheaper than an actual energy company selling the energy and then having their profits taxed. The government's total income would be higher, and the price to consumers would actually be lower...

Why don't they do this? Because Republicans believe any government is bad government, thus they believe a government shouldn't invest in practical resources.
hangman04
not rated yet Apr 24, 2014
Basically India wants to force the creation of new jobs in their country instead of increasing their trade deficit. It makes sense. They would probably be willing to fiscally help the creation of new production center as from what i understand they are not against renewables. If i am not mistaken China uses a similar policy for the exploitation of its raw resources. The companies extracting rare metals or such kind have to transform around 70% of what they get in finished good in China and then export (or sell locally, doesn't matter) the finished goods with higher value added, this way creating new jobs in the process. EU on the other hand uses quota against Chinese solar panels as with the high labor and manufacturing costs it would mean that all the European industry is doomed to die on the long run. So USA should suck it up and invest some money, cause profits are profits after all no matter where they are made......
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2014
EU on the other hand uses quota against Chinese solar panels as with the high labor and manufacturing costs it would mean that all the European industry is doomed to die on the long run.


The problem with the Chinese solar panels is that they're dumping old technology panels on the market to deliberately shrink the profit margins of everyone else to the point that they'd go bust.

The state subsidies have created a situation where there's artifical demand for PV for as long as the subsidies exist, but with Germany and everyone else scaling back solar subsidies as economically unsustainable - because the panels are still much too expensive for what they're worth - there's overproduction and that is pushing the prices down to below cost.

It's not a matter of high labor cost. The Chinese aren't in the business to develop cheaper and better PV, so they put none of the gains in R&D and therefore can afford to sell cheaper than anyone else. That hurts the whole solar energy sector.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2014
The point being that the Chinese panels aren't really cheap enough or good enough, and more development has to happen or else the whole solar photovoltaic industry will face death, because nations can't afford to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a technology that gives almost nothing in return.

Point in case, Germany, who has installed 36 GW of solar PV, which produces on average 3.42 GW yeilding a capacity factor of just 9.5% and it costs them about €14 billion a year to subsidize the whole damn thing.

To put that into perspective, the Areva EPR that is now 6 years behind schedule and 100% over budget due to the French cocking it up, and it still costs just €5.7 billion. And that's an non-recurring cost - the Germans have to keep paying what they promised as subsidies year after year.

So if the markets were opened for US, they would be opened for China as well, and that would spell the end of solar PV because the Chinese would destroy both India and US PV manufacturing.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2014
Eikka:

Berlin
52°31′N 13°23′E

Germany is in an absolutely crappy location to use Solar power. The problem isn't the concept of Solar, it's they are just in a bad location for solar to be practical.

In the U.S., solar panels can pay for themselves, even the older ones, 5 to 10 times in their lifetime the cost of energy saved.

An acre of Solar PV in the U.S. can produce as much energy 3 days as an acre of corn ethanol produces in an entire growing season.

Think about that a little...
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2014
Look, during the winter, the Sunlight in Germany is about 70 degrees from the Normal.

Heliostats correct for some of this, but...not all...

Sunlight efficiency is going to be:

E = 1-SinX, where X is angle from normal in degrees.

E = 1-Sin(70) = 0.06%

Panel efficiency 10%...

10% of 6% = 0.6%

0.6% of 1000watts/m^2 = 6 watts/m^2, which is pretty damn well useless...

Not to mention the panels will have snow on them, and cloud cover, etc, lowering this even more.

Summer in Germany.
Sunlight Angle: ~25 degrees.

E = 1-Sin(25) = 0.577

10% of 0.577 = 5.77%

5.77% of 1000 = 57.7Watts/m^2, which is useful but not impressive.

It's easy to see why their average productivity is only 10% of the panels' power rating. It's about geography, weather, and astronomy, not technology...
Eikka
not rated yet Apr 24, 2014
It's easy to see why their average productivity is only 10% of the panels' power rating. It's about geography, weather, and astronomy, not technology...


That's the whole point.

A solar panel stuck on a roof is going to see sinusoidal power variation as the earth turns day to day as well, and so the theoretical maximum power coefficient at the equator is about 0.35 which would be about 3-4 times cheaper than solar power in Germany.

Now, look at where nations are actually situated in relation to the equator: http://upload.wik...ator.jpg

In the U.S., solar panels can pay for themselves


The thing about solar power grid parity is that it can be so at the consumer level but not yet at the utility level, because the consumer doesn't pay for load matching and transmission, while the grid utility does. The consumer is simply pushing the power variations to the grid utility and not dealing with them, which is not sustainable.
Eikka
not rated yet Apr 24, 2014
The real price of solar power for the grid utility comes from the fact that they have to produce power, and they have to buy power, from say lignite burning coal plants, when the sun doesn't shine. The more urgent the need, the higher the price, so the utility may have to pay 10-100x rates for brief periods of time to deal with the intermittency. In the reverse case, they have a glut of solar power and they have to shut down plants that are expensive to run up and down.

The consumer photovoltaic user doesn't have to deal with that. When the sun isn't shining, they can just buy price averaged grid power, and when the sun is shining the utilities are forced to pay feed-in tariffs for power that they may not even want because it complicates the load following.

Solar power is paid feed-in-tariffs in the US as well, depending on the state you're in: http://www.eia.go...rams.cfm

Anything from 3-26 cents a kWh for up to 20 years.
Eikka
not rated yet Apr 24, 2014
An acre of Solar PV in the U.S. can produce as much energy 3 days as an acre of corn ethanol produces in an entire growing season.

Think about that a little...


That isn't saying very much, considering that plant photosynthesis is about 2-3% efficient, and corn ethanol is horribly inefficient to produce to start with. It has an EROEI of something like 1.2 which is just barely "self-sustaining" if it was possible to farm for corn ethanol without the input of fossil fuel based fertilizers and energy. It's basically turning a barrel of oil into 1.2 barrels of ethanol.

You're just comparing an ineffective means of making energy to something that is even more ineffective.
Porgie
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2014
The free market always does better than the private government or single supplier. Sure always make the US the bad guy when justice is in all our interests. Do they want to sell tractors in the US? Well that hurts our research and development of clean tractor technology, but nobody is whining about that. The left wing has it wrong again.
Eikka
not rated yet Apr 27, 2014
The free market always does better than the private government or single supplier.


The free market can be viewed as an economic chemical reaction, like fire. It needs supply, demand, and money, and the result is trade.

It's like saying open fire always does better in heating up your room than any fireplace with a chimney. Well, yes, except you may suffocate and destroy your home in the process.