I spent the morning at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) 2013 policy forum, listening to a series of speakers express generally optimistic views about the future of clean energy. On cloud hanging over clean energy's future, noted by several speakers, is a dysfunctional national energy policy, in which fossil fuels continue to be heavily subsidized, while clean energy is wildly under-subsidized. In short, despite claims by fossil fuel interests to the contrary, we not only aren't operating on a "level playing field," but in fact that field continues to be heavily tilted towards oil, gas and coal. What's so impressive is that, despite this clear policy bias, clean energy continues to make rapid gains. For instance, this story caught our eyes.
First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar panels, may sell electricity at a lower rate than new coal plants earn, according to a regulatory filing from a project it purchased in New Mexico.
El Paso Electric Co. (EE) agreed to buy power from First Solar’s the 50-megawatt Macho Springs project for 5.79 cents a kilowatt- hour, according to a Jan. 22 procedural order from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. That’s less than half the 12.8 cents a kilowatt-hour for power from typical new coal plants, according to models compiled by Bloomberg.
That's right, even with all the advantages coal has received for a century or so in this country, it looks like solar power is not only becoming competitive, it's actually selling for less than new coal-fired power in the case mentioned above. Just imagine if the playing field were level, and you can see why fossil fuel interests feel so threatened by increasingly competitive clean energy.