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What We Read Today 18 April 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

To become a GEI Member simply subscribe to our FREE daily newsletter.

Solar power will soon be as cheap as coal (Phil McKenna, Quartz)  The past decade has yielded remarkable innovations in solar and wind technology, bringing improvements in efficiency and cost that in some cases have exceeded the most optimistic expectations. What the coming decade will bring remains unclear, but if history is any guide, the future of renewables looks extremely positive, especially for solar.  Follow GEI associate Andrea Rangel who is writing a series of investigative reports on the evolution of solar electric technology and implementations.  The first two in the series: Solar Energy May Lead a New Suburban and Rural Revival  and  Will Rooftop Solar Energy Ruin The Electric Utility Business?

There is more discussion today about solar energy in the members-only section.  To become a GEI Member simply click here for free membership subscription.  Members-only content is accessed only through the free daily newsletter.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • The existence of credit risk is currently blowing Europe’s collective mind (Quartz)  Hat tip to Ken Workman via LinkedIn.  This article is from "back in the day" (two years ago) when the Cyprus rescue was a "bail-in" by bank depositors.  At the time the Financial Times was outraged and called for the resignation of the president of the Eurogroup because of remarks made praising the action as a "blueprint for the future".  Who is this financial genius who feels depositors serve banks instead of the other way around?  None other than a key player in the Greek crisis negotiations, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Dutch Minister of Finance and still Eurogroup president.






2014 Year-in-Review Report (GTM Research)  The graphics below are from the free summary of a subscription report.  Econintersect calculates that the 1300% growth rate in utility solar PV generation 2010-2014 is more than double that for residential (600%) and more than 4x the 310% growth for non-residential distributed systems.


REthinking Energy 2014 (International Renewable Energy Agency)  Aside from the inconsistency between the two graphics (one says 58% energy additions were renewables in 2013 and the other says 60%).  These graphs document the swing from fossil fuel to renewables for new installed capacity globally and the explosion of solar photovoltaic production over the last 7-8 years.

A Utility Business Model That Embraces Efficiency and Solar Without Sacrificing Revenue? (James Mandel and Nancy Campbell, Rocky Mountain Institute)  The utility business model of the future discussed in this article has the utility actively involved in establishing and operating the distributed solar PV electrical panel systems on residential roof tops.  Key features:

  • A package of basic efficiency and distributed solar offerings that, when financed on a customer’s bill, do not increase monthly costs
  • An integrated intake and service-delivery experience for customers
  • A platform that allows for new services to be offered over time (and for innovative partners to participate in such offerings)
  • An on-bill financing program that would leverage diverse sources of capital

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Goldman Sachs: "An Update on Student Loans: A Bigger Headwind but Still Not a Deal Breaker" (Calculated Risk)  Student debt burden on young households has increased and it has become a bigger headwind to housing demand compared to a few years ago, but the sheer number of millennials who are currently in their 20s and whose housing consumption should increase sharply in the coming years will support aggregate housing demand over the next decade and beyond.

Comcast Deal Collapse Would Kill Other Mergers in Domino Effect (Bloomberg)  Staff attorneys at the Justice Department’s antitrust division are reported nearing a recommendation to block Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable and combine the two largest U.S. cable providers.  Econintersect:  Blocking this deal will significantly increase competition in the broadband space and give the U.S. a chance of catching up with the rest of the world.

Review: Some of what is wrong with economics (Edward Chancellor, Reuters)   A well-known economics historian (author of Devil Take the Hindmost: a History of Financial Speculation, highly recommended by Econintersect) has written a review of Hubris: Why Economists Failed to Predict the Crisis and How to Avoid the Next One by Indian-born British economist Meghnad Desai.  Chancellor says that Desai "relishes exposing the flaws of his field" but when he discusses forward-looking options he is "vitiated by his own weaknesses as an economist".

Regarding Desai's discussion of history, part of Chancellor's commentary invokes a criticism of attempts to make economics a science.  His summary of Desai's attempt includes:

Desai suggests that many of the flaws of economics derive from the attempt to turn the subject into a science; a development he traces back to the father of classical economics, David Ricardo, who theorised that the economy tends naturally towards equilibrium. Such a balanced state can be modelled mathematically with ease, allowing economists to satisfy their “physics envy.” As Desai points out, modern economists are wedded to mathematical models, despite the models’ reliance on highly unrealistic assumptions about the real world.

Chancellor criticizes Desai for lack of understanding of modern money and banking and finance, discussing some examples.  But then Chancellor himself provides a disappointingly shallow concluding paragraph:

If economics is to regain its status as a serious intellectual discipline, economists must be prepared to relinquish their mathematical models and rekindle the intellectual breadth that the subject has lost since Adam Smith’s day. Since the Lehman bust, they have made distressingly little progress.

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