JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


Handbooks


Advertising


Australian Speakers Agency



GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper



Archives

Still no free lunch: 62,000 people bankrupted by Spain’s solar subsidy-industry

The Socialists in Spain offered bonanza subsidies to build solar plants. People accepted them. Too many people accepted them.

Then the Socialist-rulers realized they could not pay them all. But the solar panels had been built. The debts were all accrued. All that was left was for investors to learn the true value of surges of surplus energy at the same time of day.

Sadly people faced losing their homes, in what must have been a grueling realization.

If only Socialists could do maths, they could have seen this coming. It’s not even quantum mechanics, it’s just arithmetic.

If only investors researched their investments and remembered that if it looks too good to be true, everyone else will pile on, and supply will wildly exceed demand, especially because no one really wants extra electrons for lunch.

Teach the children. The government should not be picking winners, but if it does, buy something else.

h/t Jim Simpson

9.8 out of 10 based on 54 ratings

66 comments to Still no free lunch: 62,000 people bankrupted by Spain’s solar subsidy-industry

  • #
    John Hultquist

    This should have been easy to see coming, but I’m not going to sort through past material to see if it was.
    . . . . . .

    Those towers of panels appear to be built to tilt — time of year thing. Maybe they swivel too, anyone know?
    Frequent strong winds in my area apparently make such designs inappropriate. So I was told. It seems so because all solar facilities nearby are solidly built.

    100

    • #
      tonyb

      They are unusually tall. In the UK I have yet to see a farm higher than 6 feet or so but they are not designed to tilt and swivel. Having a tall arrangement does mean you can cram more solar panels into a given space but as the windiest country in Europe I don’t think tall installations would last long here.

      81

    • #
      Tarquin Wombat-Carruthers

      Are any tilting and/or swivelling mechanisms pedal-powered, or do they draw on the electricity being generated? What about additional maintenance personnel, or cranes and tow trucks when the structures blow over or away?

      10

      • #

        TWC,…
        You wont get much response on this thread, its 2 days old !
        But i doubt any of these “adjustable” ..or “Tracking”. Solar systems , are pedal powered.
        Large solar farms that use tracking panels have computer controlled , electronic powered tracking mechanisms.
        Some smaller “private” systems will be manually moved or use manual controlled powered movement mechanism.

        00

  • #
    Simon

    Subsidies almost always have unintended consequences and undesirable side effects. Which is why the Australian Government should stop subsidising the coal and gas industry by $10.3 billion per year.
    https://australiainstitute.org.au/post/australian-fossil-fuel-subsidies-hit-10-3-billion-in-2020-21/
    https://www.marketforces.org.au/campaigns/ffs/

    237

    • #
      Mike+Jonas

      The Australia Institute report is a farce.
      “the NT government’s $3.8 billion gas purchase from Italian oil and gas company Eni” is counted as a subsidy. It’s obviously not a subsidy, it’s a purchase of energy (probably so that energy is available when the wind and solar fail, as they frequently do).
      “State governments continue to pour money into coal ports and railways”. That’s infrastructure, not a subsidy. Just as building roads that trucks can use is infrastructure not a subsidy for the trucking industry. ‘spending on mining related infrastructure means less infrastructure spending on hospitals and schools’ – well, duh, government has to do both.
      “funding ‘clean coal’ research” and “$100 million going to turn brown coal into hydrogen and export it to Japan” are wasteful green initiatives, not subsidies (‘clean coal’ is also an abuse of language).
      “$100 million into ‘coal innovation’, but much of the research remains mysteriously unpublished, such as a cost benefit analysis of carbon capture and storage in the state.” is counted as a subsidy, but ‘carbon capture and storage’ is just another wasteful green initiative. And BTW a cost benefit analysis of wind and solar would have been a good idea before wasting all those billions on expensive unreliable energy. Yes, we know they are expensive, because power prices go higher, the more wind and solar is installed.
      And so the list goes on.

      Now tell us how much taxpayers’ money has been wasted on ‘renewables’.

      330

    • #

      If Simon didn’t destroy English he wouldn’t have any argument at all. A subsidy is not the same as a tax break, where companies get to keep what they legally earned.

      Only a communist thinks that money belonged to Australians and was “stolen from them” in order for the company that earned it to not give it to the government.

      380

      • #
        Simon

        Fossil fuel subsidies in Australia exceed taxes received.
        https://lighterfootprints.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fossil-fuel-subsidies
        A free market, where the Government does not interfere or subside, is the polar opposite of communism.

        033

        • #

          Still lying by twisting the meaning of words?

          When you are honest enough to talk in actual subsidies versus actual taxes we will know you actually care about the environment.

          60

      • #
        Maptram

        It appears some people don’t know the difference between rebates and subsidies.

        Fuel taxes are levied on fuel to pay for public road construction and maintenance. Businesses that use fuel for non public road purposes, such as mining and agriculture, pay the fuel taxes then receive a rebate for taxes paid on fuel used for the non-public road u

        90

        • #
          Ted1

          Maptram, even their scholars do not! About 35 years ago the ABCTV news opened with the report; “The federal government today caved in to National Farmers Federation demands for a subsidy on imported fertilisers”.

          More than a little annoyed by this lie I immediately rang them and protested that this was not a subsidy, but the removal of a tax.

          “What’s the difference?” said the bloke on the phone.

          30

    • #
      William Astley

      Ian. You do not understand how countries pay their bills. You do not understand economics and you are clueless about the Australia balance of trade problem.

      The resource sector is allowed to depreciate their very large capital investments. That is the so-called tax breaks. The resource tax break is very large because the resource sector spends a large amount of money every year which enables the resource sector to generate billions of dollars in foreign currency every year. For example, for the year 2021, up to September, the Australia resource sector, exports were $332 billion.

      Australia, like Canada is dependent on the export of resources to enable Canada and Australia to buy goods from other countries. If the resource exports, were to stop the importing of goods would also need to stop. There is almost no manufacturing in Canada or Australia. Most of our manufactured goods…..cell phones, computers, clothes, luxury items, software, airplanes, automobiles, movies, and so on, come from Asia and the in case of Canada, from the US.

      Australia like Canada has a persistent problem with balance of trade. Many Canadian and Australia companies are foreign owned so a significant portion of their profits are sent to share holders in other countries. This and the fact that there is almost no manufacturing in Canada and Australia means that both countries have a persistent risk of trade imbalances.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Australia#Australia's_balance_of_payments

      “In trade terms, the Australian economy has had persistently large current account deficits (CADs) for more than 50 years.[183][184] One of the factors that undermines balance of payments is Australia’s export base, making it highly vulnerable to the volatility in the prices of commodity goods. In addition, due to a colonial heritage a lot of companies operating in Australia are foreign-owned and, as a result, Australia’s net income outlay between it and the rest of the world is always negative; this results in persistent current account deficits even when there is a positive export.

      https://www.farmonline.com.au/story/7501497/resources-exports-soar-to-3326-billion/

      The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ International Trade in Goods and Services data for September 2021 has revealed resources exports generated $332.6 billion for the year to September.

      190

      • #
        TedM

        “Ian. You do not understand how countries pay their bills. “ But Ian and Simon can copy and paste links that are either irrelevant or contain content that they do not comprehend.

        60

    • #
      Zigmaster

      Simon
      Let’s have free markets in the energy space. No one would build renewables, coal would dominate with gas, we’d have energy when we need it, the landscape would be free of bird and bat killing wind turbines and power prices would be the lowest in the world. An even playing field is all that the fossil fuels industries ask for. Get the government out of the picture and see what happens.

      320

    • #
      David Maddison

      Looking at the report, of the claimed $10.3 billion subsidy, $7.84 billion in 2020-21 was the fuel tax rebate.

      Why is this rebate continually raised by the anti-energy lobby as a subsidy?

      The fuel tax is ostensibly collected from users of public roads to pay for public road infrastrue and maintenance.

      Since mining vehicles DO NOT USE PUBLIC ROADS, the tax is not applicable and is refunded. The same applies to agricultural vehicles used by farmers’ and not used on public roads.

      It is a rare sensible example of a tax being refunded if it is collected for an inapplicable reason.

      271

    • #
      tonyb

      Simon

      A simple google will show the nature of the subsidy’ which is nothing more than legitimate tax breaks on equipment etc. In the UK Vat on power is charged at a lower rate than other goods and services and that is also claimed to be a ‘subsidy.’

      180

    • #
      Lance

      US Federal subsidies per MWh produced: USD, 2010:

      $ 0.64 Natural Gas
      $ 0.64 Coal
      $ 0.82 Hydro
      $ 3.14 Nuclear
      $ 12.85 Geothermal
      $ 56.29 Wind
      $775.64 Solar

      https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/eia-releases-new-subsidy-report-subsidies-for-renewables-increase-186-percent/

      After decades of subsidies, Solar provides only 0.6% of US Energy.

      https://freebeacon.com/issues/report-solar-energy-subsidies-cost-39-billion-per-year/

      110

      • #

        Lance,..a 2010 report……data 11 years out of date ?
        Surely, there have been more recent updates or equivalent reports that are not quite so historical .?

        00

        • #
          Lance

          Obama directed the EIA to stop producing public data on Federal Subsidies by generation/fuel type per MWh. The published data was becoming “embarrassing”

          Instead, EIA now reports total subsidy dollars by generation type, tax credits, etc, and buries the values of energy produced in separate tables. You can dig it out, but it is not easy.

          Latest report I can find is April 2018 report on 2016 budgetary figures.
          https://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/pdf/subsidy.pdf

          And here: “Because EIA did not break out the electricity-related subsidies for coal, natural gas, and petroleum from their total subsidies, the subsidy per unit of energy produced could not be calculated for these sources of electricity…..On a per dollar basis, government policies have led to solar generation being subsidized by over 95 times more than nuclear electricity production, and wind being subsidized over 12 times more than nuclear power on a unit of production basis. ”

          https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/eia-report-renewable-energy-still-dominates-energy-subsidies/

          (IER estimated Coal/Gas subsidy at $0.82 / MWh in 2016)

          20

    • #
      yarpos

      he says fantasising about what is a subsidy and studiously ignoring a 100 years of stable affordable supply.

      70

    • #
      Ronin

      I agree, let’s stop ALL power subsidies and let’s see who’s still standing.

      20

    • #

      Simon, the Australia Institute is to Labor what the IPA is to the Liberals. I have no problems with such organisations existing, as long as one recognises their limits.
      I bet you’d be the first to criticise anyone here for linking to an IPA report because of its potential bias, so what makes The Australia Institute so trustworthy?

      Or, less politely: are you [Snip]AD, or is it a joke?

      00

  • #
    Double on Tundra

    We must treat our betters with the respect they have earned.

    80

    • #
      Lawrie

      You should give an example. The trouble is that most conservative, free market promoters are also unfortunately respectful and decent people. It is hard for such people to treat other people, even politicians who hurt them with ridiculous and damaging policies, with disdain and the opprobrium that they so richly deserve. One has to be polite to such ignorant people who refuse to be educated, to learn the truth and who refuse to even accept that a truth exists. Many are lawyers and are not concerned with facts but only with what gives them a win. I have noted that politicians who have had real experience outside politics, and the law, also have a better grasp on reality and are more open to alternate views. Politicians on the left have fixed views and tend to parrot the party line mainly because they are used to following rather than leading. We are desperately short of leaders. But you are correct; generally they treat us as the scrapings off their shoes so we should return the favour and replace them all at the next election. Only when they experience the uncertainty they impose upon the voters will they listen. They could solve so many problems by simply getting out of the way and taking much of the bureaucracy with them.

      110

    • #
      Bruce

      Been doing that for years. It hasn’t helped, but I feel a bit better, briefly, after expressing what they really desrve.

      20

  • #
    Ed Zuiderwijk

    This is the same country that discovered five years ago that solar panel also work at night. Because some crooks had discovered that electricity from a diesel generator is indistinguishable from that from a wind turbine and, given the subsidies, a handsome profit could be made. Once you knew that you knew the whole thing was a joke.

    260

  • #
    bobby b

    At some point, you’re no longer investing in the product – you’re investing in the chance that the government will continue to like and support the product.

    That takes a different kind of investor. Someone once called it the aristocracy of pull.

    160

    • #
      PeterS

      Some call it a lot worse than that, and the leaders of such scams and nation destroyers ought to go to prison. Instead people keep voting for them. Go figure!

      120

  • #
    Kevin Kilty

    About two years ago in the early part of COVID hysteria, and before mask mandates struck the generally sensible state I live in, I happened to eavesdrop on a conversation at a local McD’s at breakfast. It was between a couple of electricians from the University on a coffee break. These two blue collars guys weren’t talking about things that the educated class, you know three of them who show up here regularly, do. No, they were discussing how subsidies for renewable energy in Spain had caused everyone, way too much of everyone, hotels, trucking companies, etc., to jump into investing in solar farms, and that this was heading toward disaster for all. They had done some research! They knew more than any faculty member I think.

    I am now in favor of turning the NWO over to truckers and electricians.

    170

  • #
    David Maddison

    In regard to Spain, I feel sorry for those that lost their homes due to the Socialists, but there used to be a saying, back in the day before “everything is free”, that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”.

    It means that nothing is truly free as there is an implicit cost somewhere.

    Incidentally, the free lunch expression originates in 19th century saloons in the United States who gave drinkers a free lunch and it was further popularised in Robert Heinlein’s 1966 novel “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”.

    In the US saloon case, the implicit cost is having to buy drinks to get the “free” lunch.

    Sorry to have to explain this but many or most younger people don’t understand such basic concepts or have never heard of them.

    100

  • #
    Broadie

    What do you call an honest citizen with panels on their roof, an untested genetic modification in their body, their bank accounts about to be worthless, their Superannuation destroyed, their children and grand children uneducated and unskilled staring at the object in their hands and coming very soon to a queue near you, hoping and waiting for the Government to save them?

    ‘Bunnies in the Headlight’

    Solar equates to ‘Lights at Noon’ which in a grid set up shortens to ‘LOON’

    10

  • #
    Peter Fitzroy

    Good headline, pity about the facts though – all news articles except one say the opposite

    020

  • #
    Neville

    There’s no doubt that the Spain disaster is well known by now, yet in just 3 months we seem likely to have a clueless, new Labor govt.
    Then the crap will really hit the fan and we’ll have heaps more of the S & W TOXIC disasters and rush toward an even more fragile electricity grid.
    Then in another 3 years we’ll understand how stupid we were, but it will probably be too late.
    And never forget none of their idiocy will change the climate by 2050 or 2100 or…..But it will waste endless billions of $ for a guaranteed ZERO return on Labor’s lousy so called investment.

    120

  • #
    Lance

    A similar situation exists for Wind power:

    The Ciccone/Lehr rule of thumb for electric grid capacity says:

    “All Solar and Wind Power on an Electric Grid Must be Backed Up With an Equal or Greater Amount of Fossil Fuel Power Running on Standby 100% of The Time.”

    https://www.cfact.org/2021/12/07/wind-makes-no-meaningful-contribution-to-the-grid-the-ciccone-lehr-rule-of-thumb/

    90

  • #
    yarpos

    A great article. To the final “if only” statements , I would add if only journalists had enquiring minds and did their jobs.

    70

  • #
    Neville

    Willis Eschenbach has another look at the Berkeley Earth so called data and finds a profound scarcity of thermometers at the beginning of their so called record.
    One thermometer for an area the size of the USA is a complete joke and yet they still BELIEVE?

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2022/02/23/swag/

    40

  • #
    Dennis

    A couple of years ago on this blog a comment was posted about a wind turbine installation energy business in Victoria having at the time declared to its shareholders that there would be no dividend paid that financial year, that a combination of low wind supply and related energy supply below budget and operating expenses well exceeding budget estimate, resulted in no taxable profit being achieved.

    Also, in that story about “Born Lucky” wind turbine business manoeuvres, USA to Australia, bankruptcy declared in the USA before the backers moved here, the equipment had reached the end of useful operating life and was in need of removal and replacement, costs not worth incurring because they would effectively wipe out dividends already paid to shareholders during the operating years.

    I wonder how many more years are left before shareholders in so called renewable energy businesses discover that the original investors have sold out and disappeared leaving them with stranded assets of no value and a liability for restoring the site including removing the equipment?

    50

  • #
    Ronin

    NSW had a go at that very early in the solar rollout, they had decided to pay 62c per Kwh on gross output, ie what the panels produced, QLD was next with 50c per Kwh nett, I’m still on 49c per kwh.

    10

  • #

    Years ago, I watched the ‘pile on’ as Spain ‘got into’ solar power in a huge way. Nowhere else in the World were they constructing solar plants like they were in Spain. They even ‘led’ the World in construction of those white elephant turkeys, Concentrating Solar Plants. (CSP) It’s an easy thing for me to actually say this, as anybody can say it, but hey, it then gave me data that I could use for the Queensland Renewables by 2030 proposal, and I used that information in my Submission for that, (and that Submission is at this link, a pdf document) and I have only included that link to show that I actually DID have that solar plant information in the Submission, on pages 11 and 12.

    However, here’s the actual chart I compiled to detail these CSP plants at this link showing 24 of those CSP solar plants, the ones that were operational at that time, and there were 24 of them, many more now.

    The upshot of all my research into those Spanish plants is that, despite the flowery claims that this was the Saviour of the power generating sector to replace coal fired power on a 24/7/365 basis, it was in fact no better than wind power, and in actual fact had a a Capacity Factor a little lower than wind power at just 28%, and that was the only reason I used ALL of them, and not just cherry picked one of them, specifically to show that the more you build, you just get the same result, poor operational power generation.

    So, not only were the people of Spain, piling on and sinking fortunes into ‘the future’ of electricity, they also were victims of the scam that perpetuated the myth that Solar power was the way of the future.

    I have seen so much about electrical power generation of every source over the last fifteen years of concentrated daily research, and no matter what I see, it’s all the same ….. THIS is the future of power generation.

    It seems that I might be one of very few people who is ….. actually checking to see if any of it is true.

    Huh! None of it’s true when it comes to wind and solar power. NONE of it!

    Tony.

    100

  • #
    Ronin

    MCB made the dumb statement that more renewables will mean power will get cheaper, sorry mate, no it won’t, it will continue on the trajectory it’s already on, ever upwards and more expensive.
    How many families in Australia are being disconnected from the grid every day for non payment.

    40

  • #
    Ronin

    South Australia is presently paying $36 MWH to export excess power.

    10

  • #

    Theyseem to be keeping the gas generators running , probably expectig the id o die as normal after midday.
    They had to import most of yesterday until the gas got online .

    10

  • #
    Neville

    Tony you understand a lot more of the S & W data history than I do, but Lomborg recently claimed that Glasgow was no better than Paris COP 25.
    He also stated that the EV take up reduction in temp by 2100 would be just 0.0001 c EVEN if all countries complied with their Glasgow promises.
    And he used the standard IPCC model to check this outcome. He also heads up a group that includes maths, stats and economic experts to calculate their results.
    When you have the time Tony could you check out the small King Island Hybrid generation plant and tell us what you think ?
    Here’s the link to the dash board meter.

    https://www.hydro.com.au/clean-energy/hybrid-energy-solutions/success-stories/king-island

    20

  • #

    Neville, whilst interesting, the King Island dash board only gives instantaneous data.
    There does not appear to be a “log” of historical data…even for the past 24 hrs…
    So it is hard to really understand how that system really performs.
    I once tried to monitor it for a few hours , recording data every few miniutes……but that got tedius very quickly.
    I am sure they will have logged the data somewhere ( foolish not to) as it is meant tobe a “Pilot” project, but they do not seem inclined to publish it !

    30

    • #
      Neville

      Chad says….”I am sure they will have logged the data somewhere ( foolish not to) as it is meant to be a “Pilot” project, but they do not seem inclined to publish it “!
      My thoughts too Chad, but perhaps it wasn’t a good result and they would rather not admit it?
      Annual data at best is about 60% Diesel to 40% S & W, battery etc and of course many annoying periods of low or no solar and wind combined.
      I wonder how that would change if you doubled or tripled the S & W generation + batteries and how much it would cost?

      20

    • #

      If I might offer one observation here, it just goes to show how, umm, ….. ‘confident’ they were of renewables being able to deliver all the power for the Island’s population of only around 1700, that the largest part of the power generation ‘system’ is still the Diesel component.

      I also like the spin inherent in the under headline:

      The King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP) provides a glimpse of what’s achievable in renewable energy.

      Umm, note how the Diesel (fossil fuelled) component provides around 60% of the total power, so yes, indeed, this Project does offer an insight into what’s achievable, as for the Australian grid, the major fossil fuelled component on that Oz grid is coal fired power, delivering around 60%+ of all the generated power.

      A project such as this cannot be scaled up to cover a whole of grid situation.

      Some people say it’s a prime example of a distributed power situation, so let’s do that Maths for that then.

      King Island – around 14GWH a year.
      Australian Grid (AEMO coverage area) – 206,000GWH a year.

      So, we need around 15,000 of these systems for the mainland, and something like this would not work for large cities, let alone Capital cities. Sydney alone consumes around 2500 times what King Island consumes. So, it’s just not feasible. That’s why we have ….. a grid!

      Probably good for a place like King Island, but again, isn’t it nice to have the security fall back of the Diesel component, even for a small system like this. You know ….. just in case.

      Tony.

      70

      • #
        Ronin

        As the KIREIP grid is so small and is positioned right in the path of the roaring 40’s, one would be forgiven for thinking the diesel component would be eliminated.
        1700 is only the population of a small country town, so not much to crow about.

        Flinders Island does make a better fist of it but still depends on the big diesel to keep the lights on.

        30

      • #
        Neville

        Thanks very much Tony, but I wish the average Aussie voter understood how impossible it would be to power Australia using S & W and batteries.
        If a generating system doesn’t provide reliable, dispatchable, base-load energy it is a waste of time and money.

        30