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Industrial Wind Energy – Bad Public Policy

Good public policy promotes desirable social and economic change cost-effectively. Government programs, however well-intentioned, tied to bad ideas are bad policy. Such is the case with federal and state programs promoting industrial wind energy.

Good public policy promotes desirable social and economic change cost-effectively. Government programs, however well-intentioned, tied to bad ideas are bad policy. Such is the case with federal and state programs promoting industrial wind energy.

The underlying rationale for public policies promoting industrial wind energy is to reduce our dependence on the fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) that generate a large portion of our electricity, thereby reducing the associated emissions. While this is a worthy goal, wind energy’s intermittency precludes it from being a dispatchable source of base-load electricity which, in turn, precludes it from meaningfully reducing emissions.

From the perspective of wind as an energy source, intermittency means that while wind energy generates electricity (intermittently), it has negligible capacity value. Energy purchasers are unable to credit a wind project's capacity towards their minimum reserve capacity requirements needed to assure a reliable power supply. Consequently, wind purchases neither avoid or delay the buyers need to build or purchase new reliable power capacity (from coal, nuclear power &/or natural gas) to meet growing load requirements.

From the perspective of wind energy’s impact on emissions, intermittency means wind energy is effective only when it comprises a small portion of a grid’s total electricity... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Good public policy promotes desirable social and economic change cost-effectively. Government programs, however well-intentioned, tied to bad ideas are bad policy. Such is the case with federal and state programs promoting industrial wind energy.

The underlying rationale for public policies promoting industrial wind energy is to reduce our dependence on the fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) that generate a large portion of our electricity, thereby reducing the associated emissions. While this is a worthy goal, wind energy’s intermittency precludes it from being a dispatchable source of base-load electricity which, in turn, precludes it from meaningfully reducing emissions.

From the perspective of wind as an energy source, intermittency means that while wind energy generates electricity (intermittently), it has negligible capacity value. Energy purchasers are unable to credit a wind project's capacity towards their minimum reserve capacity requirements needed to assure a reliable power supply. Consequently, wind purchases neither avoid or delay the buyers need to build or purchase new reliable power capacity (from coal, nuclear power &/or natural gas) to meet growing load requirements.

From the perspective of wind energy’s impact on emissions, intermittency means wind energy is effective only when it comprises a small portion of a grid’s total electricity generation. Wind’s electricity production must be backed-up by dispatachable sources to accommodate production shortfalls when the wind isn’t adequate. As a routine precaution, grid’s have on ‘stand-by’ dispatchable sources of electricity to meet unexpected demand &/or production shortfalls. This ‘routine’ standby capacity can accommodate the need to backup wind for small amounts of wind production. However, when wind comprises a large portion of total electricity generation, additional dispatchable sources, roughly equivalent to amount of expected wind production, need to be maintained on ‘standby’. The emissions generated from these sources (normally natural gas) largely offsets the purported emissions savings attributed to wind. In sum, modest wind energy production doesn't make much of a difference and greater production may, in fact, have no positive impact on emissions.

The two linchpin public policies promoting wind energy are the federal Production Tax Credit (currently 1.9 cents a kW-hr) and Renewable Portfolio Standards in approximately 20 states. These policies support the proliferation of an energy source whose (1) energy doesn’t contribute to base-load capacity (that must be maintained and expanded in any event), (2) whose cost, notwithstanding the production tax credit, is higher than production from conventional sources of base-load electricity and (3) whose contribution to reducing emissions is negligible at best. What is particularly indefensible is that the net effect of these policies is to transfer wealth – from all consumers of electricity and federal tax payers – to the pockets of a few beneficiaries – the Florida Power & Lights and JP Morgans of this world.

This may help explain why so many of us in Vermont oppose industrial wind energy. It’s more than an aesthetics issue. Wind energy’s benefits are paltry and the aforementioned ‘economics’ makes no sense at all. Current public policies promoting industrial wind energy need to be abrogated.


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JUL 27 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3677-industrial-wind-energy-bad-public-policy
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