mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Beyond Solar

In an attempt to burnish its green credentials, the British Energy firm BP has been telling us for years its initials stand for “Beyond Petroleum.” As part of this campaign, the company has been aggressively touting the achievements of its relatively small alternative energy division. Yet a recent announcement may prompt a change to a new acronym: BS — Beyond Solar. From the FT:

BP will close the chapter on more than 40 years of history after deciding to shut down its solar business, once regarded as one of its flagship alternative energy divisions.

The group has told staff that it had made the decision after the business became unprofitable. […]

“Over the last six months we have realised that we simply can’t make any money from solar,” a spokesman confirmed.

The cycle of solar investments followed by solar bankruptcies dates back to the 1970s, and shows little sign of letting up during these “green” years. Despite the fervent wishes of ardent greens, a half-century of R&D has failed to turn solar power into a profitable enterprise. “The energy of the future” they call it. It is, and it always will be.

There is no doubt that solar energy could be a game changer — but there is also no doubt that isn’t one yet.  Without massive subsidies or large carbon taxes to make competing forms of energy uncompetitive, solar can’t fly.  At a time when governments around the world are getting credit downgrades, cutting their deficits, and figuring out how to stiff retirees whose pensions cannot be paid, there won’t be a lot of money around to throw at the sun.

Newer Post Older Post
Features Icon
show comments
  • MW from Florida

    Yes, big stodgy BP is exiting the solar business. They were always in it for the PR value, not as a real business. Apparently they think the PR isn’t worth much any more.

    I note that Warren Buffett has recently invested in a 550 megawatt solar power plant in California. (That’s a very large facility.) I’d bet on his knowledge long before BP.

    Solar power costs are plummeting. Via Meadia needs to set aside the conservative dogma about energy and look at the current reality. Solar power is going to boom, even after subsidies drop away.

    (Unlike renewables the massive government subsidies to oil companies like BP are not expiring at the end of this year. Maybe that is why BP is pulling out of solar.)

  • Larry, San Francisco

    I have a friend who used to work in the Solar department of BP who quit 6 months ago to work for a medium sized solar firm in Silicon Valley. He told me that his company just opened a new manufacturing plant in Malaysia. He said that in a sunny area the solar array could produce a KWH for an average cost of less than 6 cents which is lower than the 8 cents from Natural gas. For tropical countries and the southern US that seems like a good deal. I am just hoping that the Sierra Club and other green groups don’t succeed in stopping it (they have tried).

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Every time I fill my tank I fume at the Greens that have been trying to destroy our civilization by blocking the development of cheap energy for most of my life.
    Nuclear power costs $3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, and there is no substitute for gasoline that doesn’t require massive subsides.

  • Steve W from Ford

    MW: I wouldn’t be too quick to bet on Warren Buffets embrace of Solar if I were you. The company he is investing in is taking advantage of the huge feed in tariff that California has seen fit to burden its consumers of electricity with. It is just another way to subsidize an inefficient means of electrical generation without actually having government write the check.
    If government mandates that PG and E buy power from these wasteful plants and sets tha mandated rates at a high enough level to guarantee a profit for the Warren Buffets of the world, how is this proof of anything but the successful pursuit of rent seeking?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service