Climate Roundup: Lessons from Germany & Australia Ripe for CA

By Published On: July 18, 2014

When it comes to cutting greenhouse gases, solar rooftops are playing a larger role, but California and the rest of the U.S. have a lot to learn about reducing their installation costs to make them more affordable to home and business owners. That’s the conclusion of the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Georgia Tech Research Institute in a report issued July 9. It shows that the average installed cost of solar panels in Germany is $2.21/watt and in Australia $2.56/watt, while in the U.S. its $4.93/watt. The price of modules is largely the same in each nation. What varies is the installation cost, which equals 70 percent of the installed cost in the U.S., or $3.38/watt, compared to 97 cents/watt in Germany and $1.20/watt in Australia. In studying what’s behind the installation costs, researchers found a number of striking differences. They included use of standardized racking and mounting systems in Germany and Australia, as well as a quicker, more streamlined, interconnection process. In Australia there is no need for a building permit unless the home is designated as a “heritage preservation” property. Labor practices also were streamlined. The net result is that installations generally are accomplished in one day at a greatly reduced cost, making solar more affordable to German and Australian homeowners. The report noted that 10 percent of Australian homes have solar systems. In California, according to the California Public Utilities Commission, about 227,000 homes and businesses have solar systems out of a total of 13.8 million homes, which equals less than 2 percent. * * * * * In a move showing that bipartisanship remains possible in Washington—even when it comes to global warming—two senators are moving to introduce a bill to curb short-lived greenhouse gases. They include natural gas leaked from gas utility pipelines. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are preparing to introduce a bill that would cut the pollutants by 40 percent. The pollutants consist not only of methane from gas pipelines, but also landfills and oil and gas wells; refrigerants leaked into the air from air conditioners and refrigerators; black carbon emitted by diesel vehicles; and other compounds. Cutting the pollutants, they said, could slow warming substantially. “This proposal aims to meaningfully and quickly help slow climate warming,” stated Collins in announcing the bill. It outlines actions to plug and control methane leaks, do a better job of recycling refrigerants, and to clean up diesels. The Sierra Club heralded the bill July 15, asking its members to offer their support.

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