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U.S. government energy subsidies by type of electricity produced

I made this chart this afternoon after being frustrated arguing with some coal wonks about how subsidies for renewables are a waste of taxpayer money.

These people are certainly entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. As you can see, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power receive multiple times the amount of government cheese as other renewables. These figures are straight from the U.S. Energy Information Association.

Please share and enjoy.

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18 thoughts on “U.S. government energy subsidies by type of electricity produced

  1. Anonymous says:

    ~2 cents a week for everyone’s pet program adds up to real money at some point.

  2. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we communicate?

  3. site says:

    We know Jesus was a carpenter by profession. Does the bible tell us about any of the carpentry projects he completed?
    For instance was he into house construction or creation of furniture and toys?.

  4. ZA_SF says:

    Thanks for the chart. The critics of this public *investment* in renewable alternatives also need to consider the fact that every renewable kW installed, especially solar, will need no or negligible (maintenance crew’s truck) fuel to operate. No market traders jittering prices and multinational companies scraping the bottom of the barrel to supply premium fossils to get the same job done.

  5. Julian says:

    Mr. Hahn,

    I looked at the link that you provided in along with your chart. the link takes you to this webpage : http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/energy_in_brief/, I could not find any direct information about the subsidies that are represented in your chart , so I searched for subsides the same web page in the left upper corner of the webpage and I found the report!: http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/ It clearly states that Renewable energy gets tons of subsidies. Renewable energy (according with the report from the same webpage that you provided, eia.com ) got for the FY 2010 4,696 on Direct Expenditures, 2,690 on Tax Expenditures, 1,409 on Research & Development, 265 on DOE Loan Guarantee Program, for a total of 14,674 ( all in millions) while Natural Gas and Petroleum Liquids got 4 in Direct Expenditures, 2,690 in Tax Expenditures, 70 on Research & Development, 0(Zero) on DOE Loan Guarantee Program, for a Total of 2,820 (all in millions) which represents a 19.22 percent of the subsidies given compared to renewable, and for other sources such as coal, nuclear and refined coal you can look it up for yourself ( http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/ ) can you explain me this?, am I misunderstanding the information provided by the EIA? I would really appreciate your time, thanks :)

  6. Lazar says:

    Well, we need to compare apples and apples, i.e. the amount of subsidies per kW-hour produced. in US photovoltaic power so far accounts for 0.1% of total energy consumption (yes, 0.1% !)
    Of course, eventually coal has to be phased out. But given the fact coal-based electricity costs half of industrial grade PV, and the country is broke, low-cost energy remains crucial in spite of the environmental issues.

  7. Kerry says:

    Very cool graph. Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I really had no idea that there was such a difference in amounts. Do you mind if I share this on my site? Full credits. Thank you.

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Of course Kerry, thanks for sharing!

  8. Andrew Wilkins says:

    Larry, correction: the FIT program in Canada is not a federal program, it is a provincial program in Ontario. Secondly regarding your comment that “subsidies for solar worldwide” are “raising prices”, this is certainly not indicative of the current global PV market. Solarbuzz, IMS Research and others have widely reported that there is currently a PV module oversupply. Wholesale prices have been dropping in Canada, for example, for the past 12 months.

  9. In your blog you have amassed a wealth of information about photovoltaic energy. In the long run, solar energy is cheaper than buying electricity from power companies. There is a start up cost, but then it starts paying for itself. If you want to install solar modules, price should not be an inhibiting factor as they are quite affordable these days. Because of the increasing competition among PV module manufacturers, cost of installing solar panels have dropped significantly.

  10. Larry says:

    With respect to RC’s comment, the data at the above link to eia.gov includes the cost in dollars per megaWhr. It does paint a different picture; showing Solar to be one of the most highly subsidized forms of energy. IMHO the subsidies for solar worldwide (for example, Canada’s Feed-in Tariff Program) are creating an artificial demand and soaking up production capacity for solar panels; thereby raising prices and postponing the time when solar power can be produced profitably without subsidy. Solar power is on the threshold of being profitable without subsidy; look at http://www.intusoft.com/nlpdf/NL84.pdf for a detailed technical analysis.

  11. Dan Hahn says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the comment. Natural gas is included in the graph, look for the blue flame. There are indeed two versions of coal, one is refined, the other is raw. I could have combined them for more simplicity, but that’s how the data was presented in the source.

    Regarding the source, perhaps you didn’t see that it was listed under the graph. There’s a link to the data from the U.S. Government Energy Information Association.

  12. Bob Holt says:

    Impressive graph, but confusing. You speak about natural gas, but it isn’t there. Also, seems odd to have two cols. for coal; maybe one was supposed to be gas? Please indicate the source for your data; otherwise, how can we trust their accuracy?

  13. Skot says:

    @Dan: Excellent response to RC. While kWhours have a significant effect on costs, I think it’s more important to note the priorities. Any cost can be brought down when enough people use it. Currently the “powers-that-be” are more interested in continuing the paradigm. The idea of renewable energy is TERRIFYING to the current structure.

  14. RC says:

    Frankly, your representation of data, while factually correct, is a little bit misleading. The picture would convey significantly different scenario if you plot the subsidy per kwh for each technology.

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      RC,

      While the scenario you suggest is indeed different, I could also suggest charting the subsidy per million dollars worth of CEO salary in each category. That would paint a different picture too. Fact of the matter is, subsidies don’t need to even exist for oil, coal, natural gas companies, or corn growers anymore. They make a ton of money already using non-renewable resources. It’s time to shift all this support to the future of our energy supply.

  15. disdaniel says:

    Cool chart. Reading between the lines, the average taxpayer spent ~$1 last year supporting solar. [Caveat I don't know if your numbers are 2010 figures.] (deathandtaxes chart for budget year 2010 shows $1 billion in spending costs the average taxpayer $5)
    That is ~2 cents a week, yet some folks get very worked up about it.

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