The Truth About Energy Subsidies

Truth-About-Energy-SubsidiesDid you know that fossil fuel industries are granted enormous subsidies by world governments? If you did, do you have any idea of just how much money the oil, gas and coal industries are receiving?

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), fossil-fuel consumption subsidies amounted to over $400 billion worldwide in 2016.

In comparison, annual subsidies to renewable energy technologies were estimated to be $66 billion. This means that fossil-fuel consumers worldwide received about six times more government subsidies than were given to the renewable-energy industry says Bill Casta of TXBuyers!

Let’s step back a minute – what exactly does government subsidy mean?

Basically, fossil fuel subsidies refer to any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuels, including tax breaks, price controls and purchase requirements. So, fossil fuel subsidies encourage the consumption of fossil fuels, which are the leading cause of climate change.

In a world seeking to reduce our carbon emissions, does this seem a little counter-intuitive to you?

Continued provision of fossil fuel subsidies by the same governments promoting renewable energy technologies ignores that these subsidies make fossil fuel-based energy cheap, particularly when compared to renewable energy.

According to the IEA, fossil fuel subsidies “encourage wasteful consumption […] and undermine the competitiveness of renewables and other low-emission energy technologies”.

On the other hand, subsidies to renewable energy technologies are vital to encourage their deployment and allow renewable energies to compete in the global energy market, ultimately aiming to reach price parity with fossil fuels.

In fact, fossil fuel subsidies are the single most important barrier to the growth of clean energy today and need to be phased out if renewable energy incentives are to function more efficiently.

Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies means reducing, eliminating or redesigning harmful subsidies that promote inefficient use of fossil fuels. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would free up government funds that could be used to promote clean energy sources and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, according to projections by the IEA, if fossil fuel subsidies were phased out by 2020, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 4.7 % in 2020 and 5.8 % in 2035. Global energy consumption would be reduced by 3.9 % in 2020 alone.

What’s stopping us?

The complexity and scale of fossil fuel subsidies is a major barrier to their eliminating, as this makes the problem a very complicated one. However, the most important barrier is a political one: it is completely politically unfeasible for the world’s major economies to phase out their government subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries, since these industries’ lobbying power is enormous.

However, we can hope that by getting the word out and making it known to politicians that subsidies to the fossil fuel industry are not popular that phase outs will happen.

Image courtesy of ItzaFineDay on Flickr

The Economic Upsides of Home Solar Panels

2015 solar job censusThe demand for solar energy has reached an all-time high in the United States, transforming the country into one of the largest solar markets in the world. Fueled by American ingenuity, solar technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds over the last decade, making solar power the fastest growing industry in the nation. There are multiple economic advantages to the growth of the residential solar industry, including more jobs, lower energy bills and a decreased dependence on fossil fuels.

Job Creation

Despite the recent economic downturn, the solar industry currently supports around 120,000 American jobs, according to latest jobs census report published by The Solar Foundation (TSF), a not-for-profit solar industry research agency. With the cost of solar panels continuing to fall, dropping by 50 percent since 2011, more homeowners are expected to look to solar to meet their residential electrical and hot water needs.

The TSF 2016 jobs census shows that virtually all solar employers in the industry expressed optimism concerning future job growth, with expectations to hire an additional 20,000 workers this year. From sales and distribution to manufacturing and installation, jobs in residential solar are increasing across the board.

Renewable Energy Economics

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), solar energy is projected to grow by 29 percent in 2016 and by 30 percent in 2017. Every array of solar panels installed on a homeowner’s roof helps to reduce the demand for electricity powered by fossil fuel energy sources.

Power generated by fossil fuel releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that are likely to pose hardships for world economies down the line. Residential photovoltaic (PV) systems not only lower the demand placed on the electric grid, but reduce the need for utilities to build new facilities as well.

Lower Energy Consumption and Costs

For homeowners, the bottom line when it comes to the economic upside of solar panels is lower energy bills. Lower solar panel and installation costs combined with incentives from utility and government incentive have significantly reduced the payback period for home PV installations.

After installation costs are recovered through decreased monthly energy bills, homeowners can look forward to many years of free electricity. The Woodlands property management company has seen an increase of 80% year over year of Texas homes adding solar to their overall energy installations.

Lower energy bills also allow homeowners to increase their discretionary spending in other areas of their lives. Since consumer spending makes up around 70 percent of the US economy, that extra spending power positively impacts local businesses as well.

It’s clear that the increased demand for solar energy is creating economic opportunities across the nation.

Small is better! Declining house sizes and their benefit to the planet

small eco-friendly houseIf you have watched ‘The Queen of Versailles’, the 2012 documentary that follows the construction of the biggest house in America (a 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles, Louis XIV’s palace in Paris!), you might not be surprised to hear that the general trend in house sizes has been up-up-up!

Over the past sixty years, the average house size in America has increased dramatically from an average of 983 square feet in the 1950s up to 2,300 square feet in the 2000s. However, it seems as though this trend is reversing – many people are now considering building smaller houses.

In the UK, this trend has been emerging for many years: in 1920, the average new, large family home had five bedrooms and occupied an enormous 3,440 square feet. Today’s equivalent decreased to four bedrooms and 2,409 square feet.

These changes have been linked to societal differences. Modern families are smaller, with fewer children, and the majority of families have no live-in staff. Entertaining friends is also done on a smaller scale and the convenience of 24-hour supermarkets and ready-made meals have reduced the demand for large kitchens.

Behind this trend lies an environmental advantage too that seems obvious, but it is the simple things that are often overlooked: small houses are more energy efficient.

A recent study by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that reducing a home’s size by 50% reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third. This includes the emissions generated by manufacturing building materials, transporting them, heating, cooling, and powering the home, subsequent remodels, and tear-down after 70 years.

Building a smaller home uses less resources and materials and takes up fewer square feet that could be left as green space. Living in a small home can also encourage you to live more simply, as you simply don’t have the room for extra furniture or additional household items.

“Moreover, smaller houses are more energy efficient once they are built, as they require less energy to heat and cool,” says FIT Properties. “Small homes cost less to maintain, to renovate or to touch up as well. With energy costs on the rise, small energy-efficient homes are likely to be in high demand in the future.”

If you’re considering building green, take time to reflect on how big your home really needs to be. Contrast the spaces in your home that you spend the most time in with areas that you never use.

It won’t take long to question whether a formal dining room or large entrance hallway is really necessary, and compromising on these areas can really pay back in the long run.

Of course, consulting about the material with which you are building, the optimal orientation of the house, and the level of insulation, for example, can also reduce your home’s environmental footprint.

But the biggest difference can be made by simply going smaller!

You don’t need to rebuild Versailles to have a beautiful home – small can really be better!

Bright Ideas: Three Unique Uses of Solar Energy

solar powerSolar energy may be one of the most powerful energy sources on the planet, and you don’t need to have a rooftop full of solar panels to take advantage of it. You can use solar energy inexpensively to heat your pool, cook your food and purify your water.

Pool heaters

Solar pool heaters are essentially plastic blankets that have two layers with sealed air bubbles between them. They float on top of the pool and when the sun hits the blanket, the air in the bubbles warms up and the water takes the heat away, which warms your pool faster.

When left on the pool overnight, the blanket helps the water retain the heat because it slows the evaporation process. Water uses a tremendous amount of energy to evaporate, which cools it.

Solar pool heaters are available as entire pool covers or as spot heaters for the water. A larger pool cover will heat more water and if you live in a climate where it’s cold, the larger cover will increase the water temperature faster and keep it warmer at night.

The smaller pool covers are easier to manage and can stay in the water even while you’re swimming.

And you can even go so far as adding a solar pool fountain and be even greener.

Solar cooking

Solar cooking may be one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to use sunshine. Solar cookers and ovens are available in many different styles and price ranges. You can also make your own inexpensively using aluminum foil or Mylar, the material used to make emergency blankets.

Solar cooking and baking is similar to using a slow cooker and you can prepare almost anything using sunshine.

They’re a good solution for cooking while camping, on picnics, or for everyday meals. All you need is a sunny place to set the oven or cooker up.

Some styles will cook for hours without adjustments, while others need to be realigned toward the sun every 30 minutes or so.

Have a company, how about promoting solar cooking for events! You’d be the only one that’d be recommended for anything green. Treebeards event catering does this, and have said their Houston based business has exploded because of it.

Distilling water

If you need purified water for any reason, consider setting up a water distiller in your backyard. These use the heat from the sun to evaporate the water, which collects on a plate and trickles into a container. Solar water distillers are available in various sizes or you can even make your own.

Distilled water costs more than bottled drinking water, but when you use sunshine to produce your own, you realize substantial energy savings.

Stop wasting money on outdoor decor. Use Solar pool fountains

Sunforce 81210 Solar floating SystemSolar pool fountains are pools that rely on the sun’s energy for warming up the water. In today’s world it’s getting harder and harder to find energy sources that can be inexpensive and not harmful to the environment.

The best solution to this problem is solar energy.

Solar energy could be used to power electrical devices at a lower cost than it would cost to power devices using electricity.

Solar energy does not cost anything, as long as the sun shines there can be plenty of energy.

One of the most important features of solar pool fountains is that they have a system that traps the sun’s energy and then stores the energy harnessed for later use.

This means that you can still enjoy the sun’s energy during the night while you and your family are naming stars under the moon. Yeah, you can do that

There are different types of solar pool fountains in the market. Therefore choosing the pool fountain that is right for you could be such a hassle.

When choosing a solar pool fountain look for the one that is more suitable for your budget, try to figure out how many hours of sun you get each day.

Your location around the world also plays a big part on what solar pool fountain you should get since the rays of the sun hit the earth at a different angle.

This is not rocket science; here is some information on the best solar pool fountains available.

floating fountain for pool lily

The Floating Solar Fountain Lily can be a great accessory for your pool. It is powered by the rays of the sun. The Solar Fountain Lily is both stylish and efficient.

It comes with a water pump that oxygenates the water preventing it from becoming green. The best part about solar energy devices is that there are no operational costs.

The Floating Solar Fountain Lily comes with an integrated solar panel that allows it to power the sprayers and the pump.

solar floating system for pool

The Sunforce 81210 Solar floating System is one of the most affordable solar fountains around. IT is very affordable which means that you will not be spending lots of money buying an expensive commodity for your pool.

There is no wiring required in order for your pool fountain to work.

The pool fountain also comes with a pump that helps clean up the pool and prevents your pool’s water from turning green.

These are just a few examples of good solar pool systems. There are many affordable systems that can save you a lot of money. When looking for a pool fountain, look for the lowest prices available.

There are many stores that will help you choose the right system for you.

Just Start Save the Planet a Little Bit – Solar Charger Your PSP

solar power chargerPlaying Call of Duty on your PSP is so much fun – but now when you are racking up energy expenses in order to keep things running. The best thing to do to keep enjoying your game play without increasing your electric bill due to numerous charge times is to buy a solar charger for your PSP.

There are many solar chargers out there, and it is recommended that you look up the different features of each one in order to find out which charger is best for you.

Admittedly, solar chargers can get a bit expensive – but some people see it as an initial investment which will put them in the way of many great savings in their electrical bill because they will be able to charge their PSP for free thanks to solar power.

The best place to learn more about this and to purchase one is to go online, where you can also browse their different features.

A solar charger for your PSP should ideally be a portable one, with cables in place and cable conduit that can be stowed away in an easy manner. If you are planning to buy one, you might probably think of getting one which will get the most sunlight even when it is a cloudy day.

To spot a quality solar charger, check if it has extra ports that you can use universal solar powered chargerto charge other things. There are many reviews out there that can help you pick out the best one for your own personal use.

Charging your PSP using the solar charger will probably require around thirteen hours of straight and direct sunlight in order to make a full charge.

This is taking into consideration a 2.2 ampere hour battery, and a charger that has a 2 watt type of solar panel.

When your solar charger is powerful, the less time you need to charge your PSP.

One good thing to try out is the Logic 3 solar charger for PSP. It comes with specially designed cables which will let you connect it to third party sources of power and it easy to tote around with you.

On a full charge using this, you can power up your PSP for over four hours. You can even use this for cloudy days and can be powered up using artificial light.

Another is the Freeloader solar charger, a portable unit that comes highly recommended. You can use your PSP for over two hours if you use this model, and it is made from a very sturdy aluminum body that is also on the stylish side.

Its cables and adaptors are usually compatible with different models of PSPs, and it comes in a compact size that feels very light (you can even put it in your shirt pocket). Charging is also done via USB for convenience.

And finally you have the PSP 2000 charger – a fast solar charger that comes in a unique folded design that also protects the solar panels and keeps it from being damaged.

It is very durable and uses a DC charge port for its spare battery.

It also comes in a very appealing lithium pack, too.