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The Utilities Commission has approved Duke's plan for converting one
of its coal plants to natural gas. Duke will build two combined cycle turbines with
an option to seek a third (the commission rejected the third but left the
option open). Capacity at the plant will go from 376 megawatts to 560
Environmental activists are peeved, apparently. A Sierra Club representative
quoted in the Asheville Citizen-Times was not only upset, she was spouting demonstrable
Emma Greenbaum, North Carolina organizing representative for Sierra
Club, said she is pleased the commission turned down the third turbine but "disheartened
that the approved plan allows for this oversized natural gas project to go
"It is unfortunate that we're being forced to continue on a
climate-polluting path when energy efficiency and renewables continue to be the
best, least cost solution for consumers and the environment. We will
continue to advocate for the expansion of clean energy in our region and across
the state as a transition to clean energy is the only responsible long-term
solution to our energy needs," she said.
No, really: "the best, least cost solution for consumers and the
environment." Let's examine that further, because renewable energy sources
are not even close to being
cost-competitive, let alone "least cost."
Cost-competitiveness is the
hallowed deception of the renewables industry. They are very
dedicated to inducing people into somehow
thinking renewables are actually cheaper for consumers. But that is
Throwing "energy efficiency" into the equation is one way they try
it. As economists at the Beacon Hill Institute showed in their peer review
renewable energy lobby's report purporting to show great gains from the
renewable energy portfolio standards,
Hidden in the text, tables, and charts is that there is little to be
said for the renewable energy subsidies themselves. The cost savings will be
the result of "energy efficiency," not renewable energy. Everything
else is trivial. But by giving the impression that "not using
energy" counts towards "renewable energy," they claim renewable
energy is cheaper.
Think of it this
way. It's like a marshmallow-laden high-sugar kids' cereal advertising itself
as part of a healthy breakfast. Which means if you eat a little with a
healthy breakfast, it would be part of it. But by itself it's rather unhealthy.
Renewable energy is part of lower energy costs when you have a little
with, well, not using energy at all. By itself, however ...
It's not least-cost now.
When you're not looking, the same renewable energy lobby telling
politicians and ratepayers that your electricity bill is "Better
off with REPS" urges the Utilities Commission not to allow lower
lower rates would be bad for renewable energy sources.
residential electricity rates in North Carolina, 1990-2012>
It certainly can't be least-cost if you shutter working coal plants
to start up replacement renewable plants.
As it is, electricity generation from new plants is more
expensive than electricity from existing plants; that'll be worse when you
replace an existing plant generating electricity from an efficient source like coal with ones
relying on vastly inefficient sources.
It's definitely not least cost when you fully account for the realities of
nondispatchable renewable energy.
Those would include their well-known inefficiencies and flat-out inability to
work when either the sun isn't shining enough or the wind isn't blowing. Nature,
economics, simple math, and physics all work
against nondispatchable renewable energy sources with respect to whether they
can ever be cost-competitive with traditional sources.
Showering renewable sources with far
more federal subsidies than other energy sources get hasn't helped, either.
It can't even be cost-competitive in the near future, let
Renewable energy sure hasn't become
cost-competitive despite four decades' worth of promising it'll be
cost-competitive in the near future. Six years ago the Institute for
Energy Research felt prompted to ask "Will
renewables become cost-competitive anytime soon?" and found the
"almost there" keep-subsidies-flowing rhetoric going
back to the 1970s.Meanwhile, new MIT research is advocating an adjustable carbon tax to deal with
the inescapable reality that renewables
will never be cost-competitive with
traditional energy sources on their own. They want cost-competitive
renewable energy so badly they are willing to artificially spike traditional
energy prices to cause that to happen by default (take that, poor
This approach to competition is like Commodus secretly stabbing Maximus
in the back before they fought, thinking that was the only way he might win
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently
investigating how green energy undermines the reliability of the
electrical grid. FERC believe there is a "significant risk" of
electricity in the United States becoming unreliable because "wind and
solar don't offer the services the shuttered coal plants provided."
Environmental regulations could make operating coal or natural gas power plant
could compromise the reliability of the entire power grid.
It is far from least-cost even when you try to factor in the
A Brookings Institute study tried to incorporate the "social cost" of
carbon dioxide emissions along with nondispatchable renewable energy sources'
need for backup baseload generation and levelized costs. The study found that
power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions"
"Wind is the next most expensive."
Attendees of the joint John Locke Foundation and NC WARN energy policy
forum will remember that the panelists all
agreed (see the end) that trying to generate a "social cost" measure of
carbon dioxide emissions was futile.
Not to mention, trying to account for all social costs would require having to
account for the many
ecological impacts of the highly land-intensive facilities as well, and the hazardous
materials they require.
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