Six of the best and worst countries for solar power policy and progress
BY BROOKE NALLY
Though more and more countries are making efforts to switch to renewable energy sources, not everyone is on board with sustainability. The solar industry in particular has been set back by many opponents for a variety of reasons. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different countries’ solar power initiatives can help us encourage the progress of renewal energy production around the globe.
Here are three examples of countries doing their part for green energy, and three examples of countries that have the potential to do more.
While these countries may still generate significant solar energy each year, weak policies prevent them from achieving their highest renewable energy potential.
1) United States blocks progress
Though the U.S. has made solar power production efforts, they are well below the country’s capabilities. Texas alone holds 20%
of the country’s potential solar capacity, but proposals to incentivize solar power in Texas have been routinely shut down
since 2005. Other sunny states
have also failed to create policies that support harnessing the sun’s energy potential. The U.S. has even managed to negatively impact global solar power efforts — just this year it blocked
a progressive program in India.
Industry Takeaway: Get involved in local and state governments that oppose solar power, and take advantage of the opportunities in states that support solar power
2) Australia fights against solar power
Industry Takeaway: Solar power may not have government support in Australia, but it continues to grow
with the support of the people.
3. Spain charges an additional “sun tax”
Spain’s government recently approved a federal law requiring residents with solar panels to pay additional taxes. Spain’s regulations tax consumers on electricity generated from their personal solar panels, require solar panel systems under 100 kW to donate excess electricity to the grid, and ban community ownership of solar panel systems. Though Spain had previously supported solar power efforts
, these new regulations — which are retroactive and effectively change the terms of previously made contracts — will likely deter many residents of Spain from pursuing solar energy.
Industry Takeaway: Many Spanish residents and utility companies are pro-solar power, which means they will likely continue to purchase solar panels and store energy in batteries.
These countries have demonstrated that effective policymaking can lead to advanced solar energy industries.
4) Germany’s feed-in tariffs gain traction
Germany is the world’s second-leading
solar producer, and though its solar programs
are expensive, they have helped the country reach 38.4 gigawatts of solar capacity. The nation’s feed-in tariff (FIT) system guarantees that people who produce electricity from solar panel systems will receive compensation for 20 years. This led to so many solar panel installations that Germany’s programs needed to be reformed. Though the country remains supportive of the solar industry, it has capped total solar capacity goal at 52 gigawatts — for now.
Industry Takeaway: This is a great time to be involved in Germany’s solar industry as the government has expressed long-term support.
5) China plans to stop air pollution
China added more than 15 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2015 — for a new total capacity of over 43 gigawatts — and is now the world’s largest solar power market. This is a direct result of strong government support for increased renewable energy production. China’s 13th Five-Year Plan set a goal for the country to triple its solar capacity by 2020. Reaching this goal should help the nation lose the title of largest carbon emitter in the world, and, along with its new Air Law
, will help residents of its large cities stay healthy with better air quality.
Industry Takeaway: The demand for solar power systems is growing quickly in China, and shows no sign of stopping.
6) Japan builds solar panels on water
Japan is increasing its solar power capacity in an innovative way. In 2013, the country began harnessing energy through a giant offshore solar power plant
, which generates enough electricity to power around 22,000 homes. Japan has since built two more floating solar power plants and has plans for a nearly 45-acre facility
. This facility will supply power to almost 5,000 homes and offset more than 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Industry Takeaway: Japan is open to creative new tactics for harnessing solar power, so get involved in this growing industry.
Though some countries are further along when it comes to solar power, it is clear that some are not yet living up to their potential. With so many places around the globe working toward lofty renewable energy goals, it’s important to stay in the know
about the latest developments we can all get behind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brooke Nally is a solar energy specialist with Solar Power Authority.
Posted 21/07/2016 by Michelle Fisher
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