A tough taxation choice may be required to fund development of wind and solar energy, helping to unlock the huge potential of these sustainable energies.
This is the leading message from an article appearing in the newly launched MRS Energy & Sustainability–A Review Journal, published by the Materials Research Society (MRS), in partnership with Cambridge University Press.
Renewables expert David Faiman, Director of the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center and Chairman of the Department of Solar Energy & Environmental Physics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, makes the controversial case for an electricity consumption tax to break dependence on fossil fuels in his uncompromising paper, Concerning the global-scale introduction of renewable energies: Technical and economic challenges, set to trigger debate about the costs and benefits of taxing electricity use.
Faiman argues that solar photovoltaic or wind systems would need to be implemented at a rate of hundreds of gigawatts each year to halt reliance on fossil fuels. He goes on to suggest that an electricity consumption tax is the most sustainable way to achieve this transformation.
On a continent-by-continent basis, Faiman explores how the world’s increasing electricity requirements could be met by solar and wind technologies, concluding that, in principle, solar and wind could replace the need to keep building new fossil-fueled power plants but at an annual cost of around US$ 0.5 trillion. He then looks at three methods for raising the funds: government bonds for providing credit lines; transferal of fuel subsidies to renewables; and a tax on consumption.
Faiman reaches the conclusion that, of the three options, only a tax would be capable of providing a long-term source of funding for renewables on this scale. He argues that it is affordable:
“In many countries, notably in North America and Europe, a tax would mean a small rise to current electricity tariffs (around 1 US¢/kWh), although in others it could be as high as 2-5 US¢/kWh. It is affordable if the will, politically and in society, is there. We pay taxes for things like roads and schools, which are perceived as being for the common good. If we consider breaking our dependence on fossil fuels a public good then we should be prepared to pay for it with our taxes.”
David S. Ginley, one of the three Editors-in-Chief for MRS Energy & Sustainability, said the time is right for an energy and sustainability journal focusing on materials: “The journal represents a new forum for the discussion of the interrelationship between technology and sustainability. Our first articles illustrate this complex interplay splendidly.”
The initial offerings in the inaugural edition of MRS Energy & Sustainability also include articles on the rectenna device and carbon dots. The Editors-in-Chief are David S. Ginley, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA; Sally M. Benson, Stanford University, USA; and David Cahen, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.