Solar Energy: Middle Class Energy, Middle Class Jobs

August 5, 2016

Solar Energy Industry Association:

There has never been stronger level of adoption of solar among medium and low income communities than there is today, but you might not know that reading some stories these days.


A recent Atlantic article, “Why Should Only the Wealthy Get Solar Panels?”, makes the specious contention that residential solar is “predominantly enjoyed by wealthy households.” The claim is not supported by the market facts. This issue, along with the employment of American veterans, is near and dear to me as you can see from my remarks below to the Washington Post at the Democratic National Convention. The full panel discussion is here.


23 Responses to “Solar Energy: Middle Class Energy, Middle Class Jobs”

  1. peterangelo Says:

    My neighbor here in West Michigan is having Solar panels professionally installed next week. Company doing the install is The Solar winds. These guys do great work, toured house they did in this area last year. So looking forward to watching as the do the install.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Another misleading graph.

    First, like all these ‘bright-sided” graphs from those with agendas, it does not begin at zero on the Y-axis but at 120K and tops out at 220K. In order to give a proper visual presentation of the data, the X-axis should be down around the line “veterans, is near and dear to me…” in the paragraph below it.

    Second, plotting three superimposed lines for solar, coal, and gas/oil puts emphasis on the RATE of change rather than the absolute numbers and the total change picture, which is much dimmer than the graphers would like you to believe. This is a “propaganda” presentation of the data rather than a proper mathematical/scientific one. The lines should be “stacked” one on top of the other in wedges to show the totality, which is:

    1) ~525,000 jobs in solar, coal, and oil/gas (210,000 in solar, 190,000 in coal, 185,000 in oil/gas).
    2) ~375,000 of those jobs are in coal and oil/gas (70%), and they have shown a decline of ~30,000 in the three years from 2012 to 2015, or about 10% per year.
    3) solar has increased by ~90,000 jobs in those three years.

    Everyone should be able to visualize the real data and do the math once the graph’s “brightsidedness” is removed. The real news is not that solar is growing so nicely, but that coal and oil/gas are declining too slowly. If the number of jobs correlates with CO2 emissions, we will still be burning gas, oil, and coal well past 2050. Can we say “Way over 2 degrees temperature rise” children?

    • Harry Twinotter Says:

      You are complaining that the jobs axis does not start at zero? That is a bit petty. The point of the graph is to show the change in jobs, which it does.

      The graph is not misleading. It shows the rate of change in jobs of each of the energy sectors.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I am not “complaining” about anything. I am stating the FACT that the graph is misleading—-exactly because it emphasizes the RATE of change in the sectors rather than the far more important information, which is the TOTAL number of jobs and how slowly the oil/gas and coal jobs are declining (which indicates that our utilization of those fuels is not going down very rapidly).

        The RATE of increase in solar jobs is meaningless if those jobs do not replace fossil fuel jobs, which they are NOT doing rapidly enough to avoid CAGW. And I note a mistake in my math—-the 30,000 (or ~10%) decline in oil/gas and coal jobs is the total for the THREE years plotted—-each year was only around an average decline of 3%.

        It is not “petty” to point out the bias in this graph. Those (like you) who are math impaired and don’t understand graphic display of data are too easily misled by this type of graph. What IS petty is YOU complaining about my statements without apparently even understanding them or trying to..

        • schwadevivre Says:

          The graph does not mislead. What is misleading is your complete ignorance of the conventions used when displaying data graphically. The origin date of the graph is 2012 and that is treated as the zero point.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Another “petty” and ill thought out comment from someone who wants to blather on about the “conventions” used when displaying data graphically. Another motivated reasoner who is in denial of the FACT that jobs in coal/oil/gas are not declining very rapidly, and that is an ominous predictor of rising CO2 emissions and continued global warming. In denial much?

            MY “complete ignorance”? LMAO! I am measuring you for your demented rooster suit so that you can strut in the barnyard in style as you crow about your imagined superiority.

            Yes, 2012 IS the “zero point” of the freaking X-AXIS, but I have been trying to point out that the (double) freaking Y-AXIS, the one that defines the data that really matters, uses 120,000 as its zero point, which is visually misleading, AND that superimposing the three job change plots rather than stacking them is (triple) freaking misleading.

            I understand that you want to be bright-sided and find solace in the growth of solar—-I do too, but you have a lot of nerve maundering on like this—-a sign of YOUR ignorance, and you should consider suing for malpractice whatever schools claim they educated you in “graphics”—they certainly dropped the ball when it came to educating you about how graphs can lie in the hands of propagandists.

            Trot on down to your library and look for books by Edward R. Tufte. Two that reside on my bookshelves (and are thumbed through periodically because they are two stimulating and stunningly done books) are The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) and Envisioning Information (1990). The first book has a 25 page chapter on “Graphical Integrity” that speaks EXACTLY to what I have said here. Educate yourself.

          • schwadevivre Says:

            So you use US english, shame you are unaware of other usages.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            The real shame is that you continue to do nothing but throw out “petty” ad hominems and want to play “petty” semantic games rather than discuss anything of substance.

            Like the mindless bright-sidedness you and others display when someone trots out a MISLEADING graph that seems to give hope at first glance.. Have you looked for the Tufte book yet? The Graphical Integrity chapter will help to fill that gaping hole in your understanding of “graphical propaganda”.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    I am not sure that selling renewables as a fabulous jobs program is the way to go. Granted, there are a lot of jobs right now, and will be for some decades as infrastructure is manufactured and installed. And that is great for employment.

    But – the best selling point for renewables is that after it is installed, there are minimal maintenance costs (which means very few jobs) and zero fuel costs, and therefore renewables are incredibly less expensive than fossil fuels as an energy source.

    [Of course, in addition to that, we will be saving $1,240 trillion dollars on AGW adaptation costs by year 2100 alone (and it may take 20,000 years for [CO2] to fall to current levels).]

    I really believe that the best way to present RE is that, if done right, ALL of us can have bountiful clean energy for peanuts compared to FF’s. Every single person in the U.S. is paying about $3000.00 per year, every year, for FF’s, one way or another. A family of four, therefore, spends about $12,000 per year.

    Let’s stop arguing with morons and liars about AGW facts, and instead argue about the best, most egalitarian way for all of us to enjoy cheap abundant renewable energy at the lowest possible cost.

  4. Gingerbaker Says:

    ” residential solar is “predominantly enjoyed by wealthy households.” The claim is not supported by the market facts.”

    OK, I am happy to look “at the market facts” – where are they?

    But color me skeptical. I think The Atlantic is making a good point which illuminates a profound question which very few have considered:

    How do we design our new RE future so that the costs and benefits of RE are shouldered and enjoyed by everyone?

  5. addledlady Says:

    I’m not at all sceptical about that. In Australia, the great majority of the households that have installed rooftop solar are fixed and lower income families.

    That might have been driven by the fact that, in most states, the high feed in tariffs offered as an incentive were restricted to a standard amount. I think it was for systems around 3kW. You were quite at liberty to instal more, but you only got wholesale price for the extra power produced by those panels.

    I don’t know whether similar considerations apply in the US. There’s also the fact that higher income households here are less fussed about routine bills like power whereas low income and fixed income families are more consistently aware of such things. I’d not be surprised if there were a similar distinction between lower and higher income families elsewhere.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Perhaps it is semantics, but in the U.S., the vast majority of people are not homeowners – they live in apartments and pay their own utility bills. So, no incentive for landlords to use rooftop PV.

      In most cities, each rooftop area is not even close to being large enough to generate the electrical needs of the residents of the building.

      With some exceptions, rooftop solar AFAICT has been (although this IS changing) a “boutique” phenomenon – a custom job for homeowners who could afford a $30,000 investment with a 10 – 15 year pay-back time. That means wealthy homeowners.

      Here, the middle class and poor are financially too strapped to afford their own rooftop PV, which is why we have seen the success of solar companies who have a “no-cost” approach – they buy, install, and own the PV system, they sell all the power to the utility, the middle-class homeowner actually doesn’t use any juice from the panels on his roof, but gets a monthly stipend that is essentially a roof top rental fee.

      Not sure if this would even fit the definition of “enjoying” their own rooftop PV. Would a farmer who gets a yearly stipend for allowing power lines go through his acreage be said to be “enjoying” the benefits of high voltage transmission of electrical power?

      • addledlady Says:

        $30000? Good grief!

        Most systems here cost around $5000, maybe $8000 for people who want more. Ours cost less than $5000 5 years ago _including_ the inverter and professional installation. Some house renovation/ roof replacement companies now offer rooftop PV as a freebie incentive – though they’ve had to get a bit creative because so many houses now have solar already, at least in South Australia and SE Queensland. In a few years they’ll be offering batteries, I expect, if battery prices keep tumbling the way they have been lately.

        I realise that Australia is the land of never-ending suburbs, but that’s a good reason to promote more rooftop solar. All those roofs have to be good for something – collect rainwater, collect power, provide shelter.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          Here is info from an up-to-date website of a solar install company, giving installed prices around the country. Note that the prices given here are after a 30% Federal income credit:

          Shocking, eh?

          Plus, I don’t know how whether a 10 Kw system is going to be enough for homes of the future, who might perhaps have two EV cars needing charging. A Nissan Leaf requires ~ 30 Kw hours to fully charge from zero – and that gives a range of only ~ 90 miles.

          Rooftop in Australia is about the lowest cost rooftop, IIRC, plus you have great insolation. Makes up for the brown snakes, funnel spiders, and great white sharks. Sorta. :>D

          • addledlady Says:

            “I don’t know how whether a 10 Kw system is going to be enough for homes of the future”

            I’d expect that with the spread of LEDs for lighting and more efficient aircon, heating and other electrical equipment and appliances a 10 Kw system should happily accommodate one or two EVs. Lower power demand and better building standards will provide a pretty hefty dose of “negawatts” to alleviate the problem.

            It really depends on the supports for EVs generally. If they put in charging points at all the suburban train and bus “hubs” as well as shopping centres and other car parks, it won’t be a problem except for some people with unusual driving patterns. We’re already seeing a few in city carparks here.

    • andrewfez Says:

      In the US 30k buys a good 10kw+ system, with Midnight Solar charge controllers, an Outback Radian 8000W inverter which can switch from grid assist mode to off grid and grid tie modes. This guy runs a huge house off this type of system, using a 5 ton chiller for a/c and hotwater, and a wood boiler for heat.

  6. redskylite Says:

    Well here’s one encouraging chart from the U.S of A: “USA Electric Car Sales Up 48% In July”. Wish I could say it was also happening in my neck of the woods, but doesn’t seem so, our local mall and s few filling stations have installed free E.V charging points, but I’ve never seen any of them used and I believe FFueled S.V’s are by far the most popular selling cars at the moment. A bit more news and concern in our local media might help, but still the issue is under publicized.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Encouraging? Electric car sales up 48% in July? WOW! Reading the linked article also shows that the Chevy Spark has “SURGED 484%” (with a total of 333 sold). WOW again!

      Before everyone goes all bright-sided and starts thinking that EV’s are going to save us, DO remember that the total number of cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. in 2015 was a record 17,500,000,and ~2,200,000 of them were pickup trucks and ~6,000,000 were crossovers and SUV’s (and yes, a small %-age of those were hybrids).

      The number of pure EV’s sold in 2015 was 102.600, and that was a 17% DECLINE from the number sold in 2014. Look at the numbers of commas and zeros in all those numbers—-they are NOT typos—-then tell me that a 48% SURGE in EV sales in July 2016 means anything

      You need to visit the USA, Redsky, and spend some time on our roads to see the reality of our motor vehicle situation. We are overrun with pickup trucks of all sizes and shapes, mostly big and bigger, and all with overblown styling and massive grills—-apparently driving such a vehicle puts hair on your chest, makes your penis longer, and makes one “manly” and more attractive to women (especially those Dodge RAM trucks). Few of them in the DC Metro area are used for actual “work”—-many have fancy alloy wheels and even low profile performance type tires.

      You can buy a limited edition TONKA Ford F-150 pickup—-500 made per year,—it’s bright yellow like the toy, costs ~$75,000, and gets 17 or 18 mpg at best. You can buy oversized and overstyled SUV’s here, even from CAR companies like BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes Benz (which fact I still find hard to believe). Cadillac and Lincoln make them also, and I’d bet that fewer than 1% of them ever go off road. I fully expect that Rolls Royce and Bentley will soon be producing them for the U.S. market. Donald Trump isn’t the only crazy person in this country.

      • addledlady Says:

        “… even low profile performance type tires.” Strangely enough, that obsession with _performance_ vehicles will very likely be the feature that draws the dedicated car fanatics in to getting an EV.

        Anyone who test drives an EV wants, really wants, that torque. And those who want a vehicle with the grunt to tow a boat for recreation or a trailer for work will be seriously impressed. It will be the few genuine off-roaders who will need to stick with ICE powered vehicles.

        I won’t be surprised if we do, or if we don’t, see a near invisible increase in EVs until the sudden realisation that they’re The changeover won’t be like the near instantaneous switch from film to digital cameras or from B&W to colour TV. But it _will_ be much quicker than most people currently envisage. The question to think about is what a person buying a car this year expects to see as the range of replacement options in 5 or 10 years time.

        • redskylite Says:

          I’ll drink to that . . . . .

          Anyone have a top-of-the-line Model X, McLaren, or Porsche you want to pit against Atieva’s electric van?

        • redskylite Says:

          The World’s Quickest Street Legal Electric Car

          • dumboldguy Says:

            This thing reminds me of the Sunbeam Imp I owned back in the mid-60’s after running out of money maintaining the the Morgan Plus Four—-like driving a go-kart with a glass bubble on top. SOHC aluminum block 4 cylinder 850 cc Coventry Climax engine that screamed—-it turned out more HP at higher revs than any of the other small cars of the time and had a top speed of 95+ (on the down hill).

            But I digress. Addledlady and redsky are missing the point—-that the rich and the dillettantes playing with their toys are NOT the ones that are going to drive the world to destruction or save it with their “gee whiz” technology.

            The fate of the planet depends on direction taken by the billion or two folks who WALK everywhere—-or have no access to electricity at all (or to clean water), and go to bed hungry.

            It is mindless brightsidedness to talk about McLarens and Porsches or even about “buying cars” in general while the AGW Doomsday Clock keeps ticking.

            I refer all to the recent WashPost article titled “The World Is About To Install 700 Million Air Conditioners. Here’s What That Means For The Climate” for a look at the significant choices that mankind is making.

            “As summer temperatures finally settle in, many in the U.S. take it for granted that they can dial down the thermostat: Americans use 5 percent of all of their electricity cooling homes and buildings. In many other countries, however – including countries in much hotter climates – air conditioning is still a relative rarity. But as these countries boom in wealth and population, and extend electricity to more people even as the climate warms, the projections are clear: They are going to install mind-boggling amounts of air conditioning, not just for comfort but as a health necessity”.

            “That’s already happened in some places. In just 15 years, urban areas of China went from just a few percentage points of air conditioning penetration to exceeding 100 percent – “i.e. more than one room air conditioner (AC) per urban household,” according to a recent report on the global AC boom by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And air conditioner sales are now increasing in India, Indonesia and Brazil by between 10 and 15 percent per year, the research noted. India, a nation of 1.25 billion people, had just 5 percent air conditioning penetration in the year 2011″
            “A study last year similarly found “a close relationship between household income and air conditioner adoption, with ownership increasing 2.7 percentage points per $1,000 of annual household income.” For Mexico in particular, it therefore projected a stupendous growth of air conditioning over the 21st century, from 13 percent of homes having it to 71 to 81 percent of homes.

            “We expect that the demand for cooling as economies improve, particularly in hot climates, is going to be an incredible driver of electricity requirements,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in an interview”.

            “In most ways, of course, this is a very good thing: Protecting people from intense heat – a town in India this month saw temperatures exceed 123 degrees Fahrenheit – is essential for their health and well-being. It’s just that it’s going to come with a huge energy demand, and potentially huge carbon emissions to boot”.

            “Overall, the Berkeley report projects that the world is poised to install 700 million air conditioners by 2030, and 1.6 billion of them by 2050. In terms of electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions, that’s like adding several new countries to the world”.

          • redskylite Says:

            DOG – I take your point and fully agree, and thanks for taking the time to respond in detail.

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