Saturday, June 16, 2012

Catholic group seeks change in US birth control policy

Catholic group seeks change in US birth control policy

Sat Jun 16, 2012 7:12am IST

* Catholic group wants broader religious exemption
* Says government should pay for contraceptives
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) - The biggest U.S. network of nonprofit health facilities formally asked the Obama administration on Friday not to require Roman Catholic-affiliated institutions including hospitals to provide employees with health coverage for contraceptives.
The Catholic Health Association of the United States, which initially welcomed White House efforts to find compromise with Catholic authorities on the contraceptives issue, said administration proposals have not satisfied its concerns about emergency contraceptives that could interfere with a fertilized egg.
The Obama administration's decision in January to require employers including religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charities to provide employees with access to coverage for contraceptives without copays or deductibles has ballooned into a major battle in an election year.
The Catholic Church considers artificial contraception to be a sin and the administration's demands on contraceptives have been decried as a violation of religious freedom.
Catholic bishops and other social conservatives including top Republicans have called on the administration to exempt any employer who professes moral concerns about the policy. A number of Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, have also sued in federal court to block its enforcement.
Meanwhile, women's groups and other secular organizations have decried the flap over contraception as a conservative effort to curtail women's reproductive rights.
The Catholic Health Association, which represents more than 2,000 healthcare sponsors, systems and facilities, is seeking relatively narrow action by calling on the administration to expand its exemption for churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship.
"It is imperative for the administration to abandon the arrow definition of 'religious employer' and instead use an expanded definition to exempt from the contraceptive mandate, not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries," the association said in a June 15 letter to Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"If the government continues to pursue the policy that all employees should have access to contraceptive services, then it should find a way to provide and pay for these services directly without requiring any direct or indirect involvement of 'religious employers'," the letter said.
Officials at the White House and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had no immediate comment.
But an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said government proposals put forward up to now would ensure that religious organizations did not have to pay for or provide contraception.
The administration is currently working toward final policy language that would require insurance companies or other third parties to take responsibility for contraceptives coverage for the employees of religiously affiliated institutions.
"We will consider all the comments and suggestions from interested stakeholders before finalizing and implementing policies that respect religious liberty and ensure millions of women have access to recommended preventive services," the official said.
The administration policy, authorized under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, covers all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration including the so-called morning after pill, which women can take after sex to avoid becoming pregnant.
The Catholic Health Association said one of the FDA-approved drugs known as ulipristal acetate, or ella, could interfere with implantation of a fertilized egg.
"The Catholic Church considers a drug which interferes with the implantation of a fertilized egg to be abortifacient, based upon the known science of reproduction and the Church's belief that human life begins at the moment of fertilization," the association said.
Religious employers are not required to comply with the policy until Aug. 1, 2013, one year later than secular employers. (Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Reagan Economic Adviser Bruce Bartlett On Taxes

Thursday, June 14, 2012

May 31, 2011, 6:00 AM

Are Taxes in the U.S. High or Low?

Today's Economist
Bruce Bartlett has served as an economic adviser in the White House, the Treasury Department and Congress.
Historically, the term “tax rate” has meant the average or effective tax rate — that is, taxes as a share of income. The broadest measure of the tax rate is total federal revenues divided by the gross domestic product.
By this measure, federal taxes are at their lowest level in more than 60 years. The Congressional Budget Officeestimated that federal taxes would consume just 14.8 percent of G.D.P. this year. The last year in which revenues were lower was 1950, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
The postwar annual average is about 18.5 percent of G.D.P. Revenues averaged 18.2 percent of G.D.P. during Ronald Reagan’s administration; the lowest percentage during that administration was 17.3 percent of G.D.P. in 1984.
In short, by the broadest measure of the tax rate, the current level is unusually low and has been for some time. Revenues were 14.9 percent of G.D.P. in both 2009 and 2010.
Yet if one listens to Republicans, one would think that taxes have never been higher, that an excessive tax burden is the most important constraint holding back economic growth and that a big tax cut is exactly what the economy needs to get growing again.

Just last week, House Republicans released a new plan to reduce unemployment. Its principal provision would reduce the top statutory income tax rate on businesses and individuals to 25 percent from 35 percent. No evidence was offered for the Republican argument that cutting taxes for the well-to-do and big corporations would reduce unemployment; it was simply asserted as self-evident.
One would not know from the Republican document that corporate taxes are expected to raise just 1.3 percent of G.D.P. in revenue this year, about a third of what it was in the 1950s.
The G.O.P. says global competitiveness requires the United States to reduce its corporate tax rate. But the United States actually has the lowest corporate tax burden of any of the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Revenue Statistics of O.E.C.D. Member Countries, 2010
If taxes are low historically and in comparison with our global competitors, how are Republicans able to maintain that taxes are excessively high? They do so by ignoring the effective tax rate and concentrating solely on the statutory tax rate, which is often manipulated to make it appear that rates are much higher than they really are.
For example, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal recently asserted that Democrats were trying to raise the top income tax rate to 62 percent from 35 percent. But most of the difference between these two rates is the payroll tax and state taxes that are already in existence. The rest consists largely of assuming tax increases that no one has formally proposed and that would be politically impossible to enact at the present time.
Ryan Chittum, in Columbia Journalism Review, responded with a commentary that called the Moore analysis “deeply disingenuous.”
Nevertheless, one routinely hears variations of the Moore argument from conservative commentators. By contrast, one almost never hears that total revenues are at their lowest level in two or three generations as a share of G.D.P. or that corporate tax revenues as a share of G.D.P. are the lowest among all major countries. One hears only that the statutory corporate tax rate in the United States is high compared with other countries, which is true but not necessarily relevant.
The economic importance of statutory tax rates is blown far out of proportion by Republicans looking for ways to make taxes look high when they are quite low. And they almost never note that the statutory tax rate applies only to the last dollar earned or that the effective tax rate is substantially lower even for the richest taxpayers and largest corporations because of tax exclusions, deductions, credits and the 15 percent top rate on dividends and capital gains.
The many adjustments to income permitted by the tax code, plus alternative tax rates on the largest sources of income of the wealthy, explain why the average federal income tax rate on the 400 richest people in America was 18.11 percent in 2008, according to the Internal Revenue Service, down from 26.38 percent when these data were first calculated in 1992. Among the top 400, 7.5 percent had an average tax rate of less than 10 percent, 25 percent paid between 10 and 15 percent, and 28 percent paid between 15 and 20 percent.
The truth of the matter is that federal taxes in the United States are very low. There is no reason to believe that reducing them further will do anything to raise growth or reduce unemployment

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ten-year-old girl gets vein grown from her stem cells


By James Gallagher

Ten-year-old girl gets vein grown from her stem cells

Related Stories

A 10-year-old girl has had a major blood vessel in her body replaced with one grown with her own stem cells, Swedish doctors report.
She had poor blood flow between her intestines and liver.
A vein was taken from a dead man, stripped of its own cells and then bathed in stem cells from the girl, according to a study published in the Lancet.
Surgeons said there was a "striking" improvement in her quality of life.
This is the latest in a series of body parts grown, or engineered, to match the tissue of the patient.
Last year, scientists created a synthetic windpipe and then coated it with a patient's stem cells.
A blockage in the major blood vessel linking the intestines and the liver can cause serious health problems including internal bleeding and even death.
In this case, other options such as using artificial grafts to bypass the blockage, had failed.
Doctors at the University of Gothenburg and Shalgrenska University Hospital tried to make a vein out of the patient's own cells.
It used a process known as "decellularisation".
It starts with a donor vein which is then effectively put through a washing machine in which repeated cycles of enzymes and detergents break down and wash away the person's cells.
It leaves behind a scaffold. This is then bathed in stem cells from the 10-year-old's bone marrow. The end product is a vein made from the girl's own cells.
The doctors said: "The new stem-cell derived graft resulted not only in good blood flow rates, but also in strikingly improved quality of life for the patient."
Profs Martin Birchall and George Hamilton, from University College London, said: "The young girl was spared the trauma of having veins harvested from the deep neck or leg with the associated risk of lower limb disorders."
They said this one-off procedure needed "to be converted into full clinical trials... if regenerative medicine solutions are to become widely used".

More on This Story

Related Stories

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Live Broadcast Of Asteroid Buzzing Earth Tonight

An illustration of an asteroid passing Earth.

Ker Than
Published June 14, 2012
Dear Dan,

Here's a link to the "live cam."

The Slooh space camera will begin broadcasting at 8:00 p.m. ET., June 14, 2012.

The "countdown" to tonight's event is in the upper right hand corner of the webpage.

Tonight's asteroid was discovered less than a week ago.



An asteroid the size of a city block will buzz Earth tonight, and the flyby will be streamed around the world via a live online broadcast.
Dubbed 2012 LZ1, the near-Earth asteroid was discovered in images snapped on June 10 and 11 by comet and asteroid hunter Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.
So far astronomers have cataloged almost 9,000 near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets that come within about 120 million miles (195 million kilometers) of our home world.
Of these, just over 1,300 are classified as potentially hazardous, because they come within 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometers) of Earth and are more than 500 feet (150 meters) wide—large enough to pose a threat.
At its closest approach, the newfound space rock will swing by our planet at a distance of roughly 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers), or about 14 times as far away as the moon.
What's more, 2012 LZ1 is unexpectedly large: The asteroid is about 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide.
"This one is interesting, because we've found about half of the [near-Earth] objects that are this large already," said Tim Spahr, director of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"So it's getting rarer to get snuck up on like this."
How to Spot Asteroid 2012 LZ1
The asteroid will be too faint to see with the naked eye, but sky-watchers with the right equipment could potentially make it out, said Patrick Paolucci, president ofSlooh, an online sky-watching service.
"It's not going to be like some fireball streaking through the sky," Paolucci said.
"You're going to need decent equipment to see it. You couldn't track it with a hundred-dollar retail telescope from Walmart. But you could probably do it if you spent thousands of dollars [on equipment] and [you] know how."
Meanwhile, Slooh will be tracking the asteroid with its telescope on the Spanish Canary Islands and will broadcast the flyby over the Web, starting at 8 p.m. ET.
"We love it when stuff like this happens, because it's fun to do and the public appreciates it," Paolucci said.
No Chance for Collision
Despite qualifying as a near-Earth asteroid, 2012 LZ1 is too far away to threaten our planet or the moon, the Minor Planet Center's Spahr said.
During tonight's close approach, the asteroid's trajectory will get modified slightly by Earth's gravity, but the effect is predicted to be minimal, he added.
"It's really just a small tug on the object," Spahr said.
The next approach for 2012 LZ1 will be in 2016, but it's expected to clear Earth with plenty of room to spare.
Then and now, Spahr said, "there is no possibility of a collision for this object."

Flint, Michigan: Most Violent City In America

1. Flint, Mich.

Violent crimes per 1,000: 23.4
Population: 102,357
2011 murders: 52
Median income: $22,672
Unemployment rate: 18.9%

According to the FBI, no city with more than 100,000 residents had a higher violent crime rate than Flint. In 2011, there were 2,392 incidents of violent crime in Flint, which has a population just above 100,000. That same year, there were just 1,246 violent crimes in all 10 of the safest cities in America — which have 13 times as many residents as Flint among them. Flint has the second-highest murder rate and the highest rates of aggravated assault, burglary and arson in the nation. According to Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, “there are too many guns on the street and it’s easy for individuals with evil motives to take another human being’s life.” 

Though the violent crime has long been a problem in Flint, in 2010 the city laid off 20 of its 140 police officers, a decision that diminished both the police’s street presence and response times to crime.

Attempt To Repeal North Carolina's Racial Justice Act

Dear Maria,

If you would like to sign a petition to prevent repeal of North Carolina's Racial Justice Act (RJA), the appropriate link is at the bottom of this email.

To learn more about RJA, the two links immediately below provide useful information. 

North Carolina's Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009 after an overwhelming preponderance of evidence made clear that people of color were being disproportionately executed.

It is clear that American conservatives' contempt for Science is intertwined with contempt for statistical truth.

As you may know, I recently manned the Democratic Party information table at our local polling place. 

The Republican Party representative next to me -- in addition to reminding every voter that "Marriage is between a man and a woman: no cats" -- defended totally unregulated 2nd Amendment rights, saying: "I don't believe in statistics: I believe in individual faces." 

If one "individual face" could have been saved by mounting bazookas on the roof of every car -- like they do in Sudan and Somalia -- then so be it. Let civilization thrive!

The Republican rep and I did not discuss nuclear weapons but I have little doubt he would see the "wisdom."

After "adjusting for population," it is a scientific fact that a black person or a brown person is far more likely to be executed than a white person convicted of the same crime. 

North Carolina's abiding passion for racially-biased vengeance is reprehensible - doubly so insofar as we are not discussing the enactment of humane legislation, but the repeal of humane legislation.


Daddy man

PS  Germany’s cumulative police force fired 85 bullets in all of 2011. 
       NYC police fired 84 shots at a single murder suspect in April, 2012. The Atlantic
       Peace is disarming. 
       If peace to become a reality, the swords must beaten into plowshares. 
       Would Jesus pack?

Dwight Eisenhower: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
Ike, whose mother worshiped with a Mennonite congregation, once referred to himself as "the most intensely religious person I know."

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: PFADP <>
Date: Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Subject: Take Action: RJA Repeal Bill Moves to Senate

June 14, 2012
Dear Alan,

Yesterday, the NC House of Representatives voted in favor of repealing the NC Racial Justice Act by a final vote of 73 - 47.

The repeal bill, falsely being characterized as an amendment to the Racial Justice Act, will now move to the NC Senate.

Please take action immediately and encourage your senator to vote against Senate Bill 416,

You will also be prompted to send a targeted message to your representative in response to his or her vote.

We have provided you with messaging that sets the tone, but please personalize your messages and subject lines.

In solidarity,
Amanda, Beto, and Steve

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
110 W. Main St., Suite 2-G, Carrboro NC 27510
(919) 933-7567

Not interested anymore? Unsubscribe Instantly

Kevin Phillips: U.S. Financialization and the Precipitous Decline of Real Productivity

Kevin Phillips: The Financialization of America

My neighbor Gerry Lange may read more than all of the other District 8 legislative candidates combined. This weekend he forwards me some material he was reading about Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist who worked for President Nixon and came up with the Southern strategy that wrested Dixie from Democratic domination. Phillips also writes books. His latest, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, appears to demonstrate a keen grasp of exactly what has led us to our current financial quagmire.

Thing is, as Gerry points out, Phillips has been writing about our profligate spending and out-of-kilter economy for years. He directs me to this New York Times review of Phillips's 2006 bookAmerican Theocracy, which I thought was just about how our whacky fundagelical friends are wrecking the GOP and the Constitution. "[T]he ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government" is but one of three dangers Phillips identifies. The other two: "the role of oil in defining and... distorting American foreign and domestic policy" and "the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating."

Wow—Phillips wrote that in 2006, but he perfectly describes the McCain-* campaign.

So how did we get into this mess?
The creation of a national-debt culture, Phillips argues, although exacerbated by the policies of the Bush administration, has been the work of many people over many decades — among them Alan Greenspan, who, he acidly notes, blithely and irresponsibly ignored the rising debt to avoid pricking the stock-market bubble it helped produce. It is most of all a product of the "financialization" of the American economy — the turn away from manufacturing and toward an economy based on moving and managing money, a trend encouraged, Phillips argues persuasively, by the preoccupation with oil and (somewhat less persuasively) with evangelical belief in the imminent rapture, which makes planning for the future unnecessary [Alan Brinkley, "Clear and Present Dangers," New York Times, 2006.03.19].

Phillips explains the financialization of America in much greater detail in an interview with Bill Moyers from last month. While the federal government has been propping up and bailing out the financial sector since the 1980s (ask John McCain and his pal Charles Keating about the savings and loan collapse), it has done little to nothing to keep factories from closing. Sure, all those loans and stock investments created lots of wealth on paper and computer screens, but the manufacturing sector created wealth that, as Phillips points out to Moyers, supported a growing blue-collar middle class that could afford fishing cabins on Lake Michigan.

We have done nothing to keep open those factories in Michigan and elsewhere, engines of prosperity whose only fault was not paying their workers Chinese subsistence wages. But for bankers and brokers who invest in loans that an Accounting 101 student would have recognized as toxic, we break out the federal checkbook and authorize the single biggest federal disbursement in history.

One more partisan note: keep in mind that a key part of Senator Obama's plan for America is huge investment in alternative energy, not just to get us off oil, but to create five million new "green-collar" jobs—manufacturing jobs for folks to build all those windmills, solar panels, and whatever else American ingenuity can invent. Maybe that's why McCain couldn't compete in job-hungry Michigan.

Thanks to Gerry, I'll be reading more of Kevin Phillips. We all should, so we understand why Hank Paulson has a $700-billion blank check... and why we may be in for long Japan-style recession.

Party's over, Wall Street. Time to get America back to real work.

Fracked Gas and Solar Energy


The hype surrounding fracked gas obscures the reality of solar energy.

In Australia, rooftop solar is now cheaper than grid energy. 

The following two articles are eyeopening and encouraging. 

1.) "Solar photovoltaics will do to grids what mobiles did to telephony." David Crane, head of NRG, a New Jersey based integrated energy company with 29 traditional gas, coal, and oil power plants located across 11 states, including 9 in Texas.                   ///

2.) "In Australia, rooftop solar is now cheaper than grid energy."  Excerpt: "Dramatic improvements in the economics of solar power... has seen its cost drop 75 per cent in the last four years, and 45 per cent in the last 12 months alone."

NRG's David Crane is right. We are so focused on the nuts and bolts of solar energy production that we ignore solar's more transformative effects including a decisive shift from "grid centrality."

Once power shifts from oily guys (like Bush, Cheney and Arab sheiks) to unplugged "decentralists," there will be epochal change in the deployment of democratic political power, chiefly a shift from dependence to independence.

Currently, we are so dependent on central power that many citizens trample their own best interest in order to promote the "good" of powerful centralists, often referred to as "job creators."

Our highly-financialized economy produces relatively few "real things." Instead, putative "job creators" seek profits from arcane "financial instruments" whose "reality" exists mostly in cyberspace.  

I encourage you to see "Inside Job," Oscar-winning Best Documentary, 2011. "Inside Job" is freely streamable at  

Kevin Phillips, a Nixon adviser and co-founder of the GOP's "Southern Strategy," laid the groundwork for understanding "Financialization." 

To the extent that "job creators" invest in the production of "real things," they invest where profits are highest - China, India, Brazil, Russia and a host of "breakout" third-world countries. 

"Drill baby drill" looks ever more like trepanning.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In Australia, rooftop solar is cheaper than grid energy

Excerpt: "California’s energy regulator recently rejected a planned open-cycle gas plant in favour of a solar PV facility on the basis of cost."

Solar PV – it’s cheaper than you think

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Perhaps it’s time we should all stop kidding ourselves. So much of the political and economic debate around clean energy is framed through the idea that solar, in particular, is just too expensive, and will be for decades. But for the consumers who increasingly exercise the power of choice over the electricity they consume, this is just plain wrong.
The energy debate in Australia and overseas is framed around the wholesale cost of electricity – the price difference between cheap coal and new technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal. And even though coal and gas are unlikely to remain cheaper than solar or wind at utility scale in most markets beyond the end of the current decade, the point of choice is already made at the consumer level, where no one cares if it only costs Loy Yang A $2/MWh to produce electricity, they only worry about what’s on their bills. And at that level, solar on their rooftop is clearly a cheaper option.
This is one of the fundamental points made by a major new research paper released overnight byBloomberg New Energy Finance. It said that solar PV is much closer to price competitiveness with fossil fuel-generated electricity than many decision makers and investors realise, and policies have yet to catch up with the dramatic improvements in the economics of solar power, which has seen its cost drop 75 per cent in the last four years, and 45 per cent in the last 12 months alone.
“The perception persists that PV is prohibitively expensive, and still has not reached “competitiveness,” it says. But it  notes that the wrong metrics are used to compare the costs of different energy sources. The idea of the term “grid parity” is confusing and used to compare wholesale prices with retail, misleading and confusing not just consumers, but decision makers too, with major implications on policies. More accurate to reflect the market dynamics, at least in the retail market, would be a term such as socket parity.
“The PV industry has seen unprecedented declines in module prices since the second half of 2008, the paper notes. “Yet, awareness of the current economics of solar power lags among many commentators, policy makers, energy users and even utilities.” It cites a bunch of reasons, including the very rapid pace of PV price reductions, the persistence of out-of-date data in information still being disseminated (occasionally by those with an interest in clouding the discussion), and the misconceptions and ambiguity surrounding many of the metrics and concepts commonly used in the PV industry.
But before looking at that report in more detail, here are some graphs presented by one of the authors, Michael Liebreich, the CEO of BNEF, at the World Renewable Energy Forum in Denver overnight. Liebrich presented about a dozen graphs tacking the price parity of solar PV in key markets between 2010 and 2025. But here are the key ones – 2012, 2015, and 2025.
These graphs show the levellised cost of solar PV in the retail market, compared with the retail price of electricity, and ranks countries according to the amount of solar irradiation (right axis), size of PV market (circles). All countries above the blue line are at or better than price parity.
(The figures are based on 6 per cent cost of capital, 0.7 per cent a year module degradation, 1 per cent capex as O&M annually. $3.01/W capex assumed for 2012, $2.34 in 2015 $1.80/W in 2020 and $1.53/W in 2025.).
In 2010, only Hawaii was above the blue line, but in 2012, this is the situation, according to Liebriech.
This is what it will look like in 2015
…. in 2020 ….
and in 2025 ….
As you can see, Australian solar is already at parity, and will become an increasingly cheaper option – which means it is pretty much a no-brainer for retail consumers (who now have access to zero-down finance) and also for the commercial market, which pays higher tariffs. This is why commercial-scale rooftop PV is the hot new sector in Australia. Even US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu (according to my spies) made a point at the conference of noting that Australia was one of the first countries that have appeared above the line – it’s just a shame that Australia’s energy ministers (state and federal) don’t seem prepared to recognise this.
These arguments about parity have already been made by the International Energy Agency in their solar study last year, and more recently by McKinsey & Co, which made the point that solar PV is already competitive in four out of five key global energy market types, and by NRG CEO David Crane, who said this week that solar PV will do to electricity grids what mobiles did to fixed line telephony.
As the paper notes, changes to the economics of solar PV are happening so fast that it is hard to gain a coherent picture of the shifts occurring across the industry value chain around the world. But it does say that, despite efforts by the likes of Bjorn Lomborg and others to paint solar as “prohibitively expensive,” even on wholesale prices it is competing in some areas with coal and gas.
The US Department of Energy estimates the LCOE of PV at $0.10/kWh to $0.18/kWh for utility-scale, $0.16/kWh-$0.31/kWh for commercial systems and $0.16/kWh-$0.25/kWh for residential PV systems. Yet outdated numbers are still disseminated to governments and regulators (it might have made mention here of the Australian government’s appalling draft energy white paper, but didn’t).
It says the DOE is forecasting solar PV’s LCOE to $0.08-$0.10/kWh for residential, $0.06-$0.08/kWh for commercial and $0.05-$0.07/kWh for utility-scale solar PV. (That would make it cheaper than both coal and gas. Indeed, California’s energy regulator recently rejected a planned open-cycle gas plant in favour of a solar PV facility on the basis of cost).
The paper says “grid parity” is a curious and misleading term that applies to no other fuel source, except fuel cells. And it disguises the fact that many PV applications are not competing against wholesale generation but, instead, the delivered price of electricity through the grid.
Indeed, it even describes the graphs we published above as “busy‟ and “non-intuitive,” serving mainly to demonstrate how difficult a concept it is to communicate. “This places PV at a disadvantage at a time when the industry is seeking to send clear messages on competitiveness in its political communications and government affairs,” it notes.
*The paper, called, Re-Considering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power, was co-authored by representatives of UNSW, AGL Energy,  the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, Austria International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, KMR Infrastructure, International Renewable Energy Agency, the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, and Suntech Power.
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Comments (31)

  1. Warwick says:
    Great news. Now that PV is cheaper at the “socket” than the retail price it means that solar can stand on its own feet without the need for subsidies such as a Feed-In-Tariff priced above the fair value of energy.
    • Chris Fraser says:
      Agreed, Warwick. Although fair value for PV energy is a somewhat qualitative measure. Considering that storage capacity is likely to increase sharply, is it still OK to get 35c/kWh for any export ?
    • DCollis says:
      Why do you obsess over subsidies for renewables when polluting fossils and nuclear receive far more – and have done for many decades?
      • Warwick says:
        An inefficient subsidy is a poor policy regardless of whether the technology is renewable or not. We in the renewables industry have a responsibility to be honest with the public about the costs of renewables as well as highlight the extern of pollution of fossil fuels. Ultimately, the renewables industry goal should be to reduce emissions at least cost to the community.
        • Adam says:
          If this is the case, surely we can check the numbers on a residential scenario with an off the shelf system?
          What does the commercial energy market look like now anyway? I heard it’s cooled off (in energy demand and not just RECs) – there won’t be big investment in commercial space even if there is price parity as there isn’t need for new gen capacity.
          I wonder what assumptions the modelling makes of power purchasing/storage.
    • Gillian says:
      Let’s remove the subsidies to coal as well. NSW govt subsidises coal for electricity generators to the tune of $2.7 billion a year, at 2011 prices.
  2. keith williams says:
    ditto for fossil fuel subsidies which dwarf renewables subsidies. How obscene is it that fossil fuel companies with huge profits still take home huge subsidies?
  3. Rick says:
    I agree with Warwick. Why does it matter that Australian governments don’t acknowledge that rooftop solar PV has reached price parity? Its now for business to just get on with it!
    • Jonathan Maddox says:
      It matters because in most states, it’s not private business which generates electricity. In NSW the new government has decided to open a new state-owned coal mine to provide the incumbent (and amortised) state-owned coal-fired power stations with coal at a fraction of the export price (indeed below cost price!), because the existing privately-owned mines refused to continue to do so beyond the expiry of current long-term contracts. A similar but less-well-documented situation exists in Queensland I believe.
    • Jonathan Maddox says:
      “To continue to meet energy demands in NSW and Australia generally, NSW electricity generators need a reliable local source of coal. Otherwise, generators will be increasingly exposed to international coal prices which have risen sharply.” — Steve Ireland, Cobbora Holding Company
      It seems the original plans for the mine have been somewhat scaled down, but it’s still happening :
  4. Colesy says:
    There’s the market showing the Govt. they should get out of the way to enable more efficient generation/ distribution of energy. (and that they should get their advice from people other than the existing energy infrastructure/ suppliers!)
  5. Robert Sczech says:
    The retail cost of electricity is not only the cost of its generation. There are additional costs of transmission, maintenance etc. (Taxes are also not negligible). In the case of solar panels, there is the additional cost of storing the excess electricity (either in form of a battery or in the grid) since the sun is shining only during the day, but of the electricity is needed at night.
  6. Owen says:
    The idea of ‘socket parity’ and payback time presented for Australia are optimistic. Because most owners of PV systems do not use all of their generation and surplus power to the grid earns 7c/kWh (in Perth). So unless your able to use all of your generation or have a feed in tariff is at wholesale price then the economics will be less rosy than those presented in the article.
  7. Richard Simpson says:
    Can someone tell me what the subsidies are for coal fired or gas fired genertation?
  8. Scott says:
    Agree with comments above.
    Solar PV can stand on its own merits now, so no need for any new FIT. Solar PV is a much more powerful and persuasive argument when you can reduce the dependence on FIT.
    Longer term, one wonders what will happen to the grid ?
    Will we see defections to offgrid systems if the price of storage systems also reduce ?
  9. Tim says:
    Giles, they don’t seemed to have increased the retail power price over future years. Do you know if they have accounted for that in another way?
    • Giles Parkinson says:
      No, but I think you can assume that the grid-based retail price is going up, wherever you are, which would make the graph more compelling. Perhaps too many variables too include/
  10. Richard Simpson says:
    Keith, we all know about that, it is an aberration.It is one power station.
    I would like to know what subsidies relate to the overall picture.
    • Giles Parkinson says:
      Actually Richard, i believe the NSW government intends for Cobbora to supply all NSW power stations whose alternative contracts expire in coming years.
  11. Richard Simpson says:
    That would be an impossible scenario, both from a logistics and contractural sense
    Besides NSW is not all of Autsralia.
    What subsidies, Australia wide, both gas and coal generation apply?
    There are no papers addressing the facts,that I can find, so if anyone can enlighten me I would appreciate that.
  12. keith williams says:
    There are endless exceptions e.g. paying to close down coal plants !!! (they don’t do that in the US) and on and on it goes.
    I think the figure for fossil fuel subsidies worldwide last year is around $630 billion.
    • Richard Simpson says:
      Kieth, closing down a coal plant is not a subsidy for fossil fuels, but one to make alternatives viable.
      What do we do on an ongoing basis to subsidise fossil fuels, coal and gas?Not talking about transport, another subject.
  13. Pat says:
    Do you think that once PV rooftop reaches full scale “socket” parity the price would really trend further downwards, or just remain slightly under the competitive price and increase profitabibility of the solar sector.
    Also, assuming large scale storage is not developed, what do you think the net effect of the night time retail price. Given you still need the same MW capacity, would the wholsesale unit cost of this capacity increase due to reduced daytime capacity factor?
  14. keith williams says:
    Setting up energy systems costs in the beginning. There has been huge investment to get coal, gas in place. I am at a loss to understand why this shouldn’t be done for renewables.
    I don’t get why we keep supporting coal, gas when they are contributing to impending climate disaster. The NSW Cobbora coal supply agreement is perhaps the most blatant, but it is built into the fabric of fossil fuel based power (both electricity and transport).
    There are signs in the rest of the world that the party might slow with G8 discussions about removing fossil fuel subsidies, but don’t underestimate the wealth and tenacity of the massively profitable fossil fuel lobbies.
    The draft white paper here in Australia is testament to the power of the fossil fuel lobbies which sought to completely neuter solar in the white paper by using ridiculous numbers for solar costings. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the costs have so dramatically come down. Dare they still try to use fiction to get rid of solar??
    • Richard Simpson says:
      You are correct regarding Cobbora, however that is only a fraction of Australia’s production of coal for power generation. Estimates are now 12 million tons a year. However, which Government proposed same? Not the current one. Coal generation in NSW uses 40 million tons plus a year.
      It is extremely unlikely that it will ever go ahead, as cost of production will be at least $24 a ton above the sale price. The NSW Government is broke.
      The lost income from export as well is not to be missed. Water requirements in t region are also a problem, as are the logistics and previous contractual arrangements by the generators.
      I agree it does not make sense. Let them pay market rates for coal.
      However regarding subsidies for coal and gas generation in Australia there is a dearth of information. Most profiles transport.
      Even through my Uni Library I can count the number of academic studies on one hand. Most are from interest groups on both sides.
      Nearly all that claim subsidisation quote, infrastructure, such as power distribution (needed in any case) and items such as ports and rail/road. Not correct because all return a net income, contribute to exports. Aluminium, again subsidised but returns more in taxes, employment etc .
      Another subsidy is for pensioners, now that is a social decision.
      Cross subsidies to rural areas, the same.
      So I can find no real information proving that coal and gas are subsidised.
      What I can find from the productivity Commission is only this:
      Renewable Energy Target $356 million
      Feed in Tariffs $96 million
      Qld Gas Scheme $38 million
      Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme $3 million
      Total $494 to $694 million(low to high)
      The subsidisation has nothing to do with coal and gas.
  15. Julien says:
    why is the retail price of electricity dropping over the years?
    • Michael says:
      Retial prices dropping? Mine are continuing to go up year after year. An even accounting for inflation there is still a slight upward movement. They certainly haven’t been going down in real or adjusted terms.