by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
Yesterday Gov. Pat McCrory made it clear that he is as adept at picking energy sources for the state as he was at picking transportation options for Charlotte. Which is to say, he’s manifestly horrible at it.
More to the point, he manages to select highly ineffective and exorbitantly expensive options — at everybody else’s expense, of course. It’s a skill only a politician could have and yet be successful.
As mayor of Charlotte, McCrory championed rail transit as a way to solve Charlotte’s ongoing traffic woes and, not to be overlooked, improve Charlotte’s air quality. Charlotte’s traffic woes are still ongoing, and its air quality is not noticeably better, either. But the numbers for McCrory’s rail transit are always going up — cost projections, that is.
As governor, McCrory has announced an energy plan. Wait, first, let’s look at the levelized cost of new energy generating technologies. These are projections for 2016 from the Energy Information Administration as cited in Agenda 2010:
Click the image for the full size
Other than solar-photovoltaic, what is the most expensive option? And there’s a note at the base of the graph, which states "The actual costs for wind power are likely to be much greater than the above estimated costs for wind power, because the cost estimates do not take into consideration the backup sources that would be needed for wind power."
What that refers to is, of course, the fact that we can’t seem to make the wind blow in strict accordance with when people are requiring electricity, so wind energy plants require an actually reliable source of backup generation to provide the needed electricity.
McCrory’s announcement, as reported in The News & Observer’s Under the Dome in the headline "Gov. McCrory embraces offshore wind power as energy alternative":
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory asserted his political independence on energy policy this week by throwing his support behind developing wind farms in North Carolina.
Not just any wind farms, but offshore wind farms, which are considered among the most expensive forms of electricity, and generally denounced by conservatives and libertarians as a subsidy-dependent boondoggle.
McCrory notified the feds that he endorses the Obama Administration’s efforts to develop offshore wind power. … "This is an important step to develop North Carolian’s world-class wind energy resources," McCrory wrote to the feds. "Development of commercial wind farms off North Carolina’s coast could stimulate factory development in the state to provide the necessary equipment and bring jobs in that sector."
McCrory’s letter cited several major industrial companies with roots in the state that stand to benefit from wind power expansion. ABB makes cables for power transmission, Nucor makes steel plates used in turbine towers, and PPG makes fiberglass for the blades.
Indeed, companies will benefit; cronyism will abound. And very expensive, unreliable electricity will be generated, but don’t worry about that, it’s not like ratepayers will have a choice. They’ll have to pay.
Wind energy is the Wally Pipp of energy sources, but unlike the first baseman whose headache sent his backup into the starting lineup, who happened to be Lou Gehrig, this Pipp has strong political connections, so he will never be taken off first base, and the more productive Gehrig will always be a backup. The politician will bloviate about how keeping Windy Pipp in our electrical lineup is an important step in developing our world-class energy sources or something. Which will come with world-class prices that the poor will just have to take.