Articles filed under Energy Policy from Washington
But in a recently released report, “Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives,” the utility’s commissioners say they “do not support further wind power development in the Northwest.” ...“While development of wind farms may be politically fashionable and appeal to many in the general public as a harmonization of nature with electricity production, the science and economics indicate powering modern civilization with intermittent generation resources like wind and solar power comes at a high financial and environmental cost.”
Over the last several years the Pacific Northwest spent about $5 billion and impacted over 50,000 acres of pristine public land for the privilege of throwing away 9 billion kWhrs of carbon-free energy every year. Just so we can meet an arbitrary state mandate, claim we’re green, and make a few folks lots of money in tax credits, the cost of which gets passed onto the rate-payers and tax-payers.
The region now has a wind power capacity, on paper, of 4,500 megawatts. That is certainly a lot. The law requires large utilities to obtain 15 percent renewables by 2020. All this windy carbonless renewability raises some reasonable questions, such as: How much? Who pays? Is there a better way? Are we actually reducing our carbon footprint, or are we covering Eastern Washington with windmills and raising our electric rates for not much environmental gain? I would like to know.
You might have seen wind turbines springing up all over the Northwest in the past decade. This year, the region's wind industry has faced a different story. Not a single new wind farms is under construction in the Northwest.
The governor is correct that reclassifying hydropower would wreck Initiative 937. That exposes the true purpose of the measure, to force a massive investment in the only form of renewable power even remotely practical - wind. That is accomplished by extracting the funds from the ratepayers of the Northwest, through utilities that today and in the future mostly need no additional power to meet their load.
The GOP has taken Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee to task for promoting the green energy industry as a way to bolster the state's economy, claiming many such companies are failing or teetering.
"Balance is critical, and that is really where our focus is. And that's to produce as clean a power as we can, and to keep our customer bills affordable," said Grant Ringel, a spokesman for PSE told the Los Angeles Times.
The policy essentially would curtail production - particularly wind generation - when there is too much power for BPA to handle, a situation that usually occurs in the spring. And it would also pay the wind energy producers for their lost revenue. PUD commissioners say that amounts to subsidizing an already subsidized industry by passing the costs on to BPA customers like the Grays Harbor district.
The order forced wind farms along the Columbia River to shut down for about 10 hours during the past weekend. ..."Our folks are working as hard to minimize it, but as the runoff continues, it is certainly possible that it will happen again. It depends on a number of factors: the runoff, what the wind is doing. Certainly what amount of power people are using."
The initiative's goals may have been laudable -- encourage the construction of new renewable sources of energy, creating jobs and reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels. But in practice, the measure is riddled with unintended consequences. The result is a legal mandate that forces utilities to act against the best interests of their customers and the environment.
BPA said the policy, implemented between May and July of last year, resulted in the curtailment of 97,557 megawatt-hours of wind generation, or 5.4 percent of the total wind output connected to BPA's grid, for a loss of $2.15 million in renewable energy credits (REC) and production tax credit (PTC) income.
More kinds of hydropower added after 1999 would count - as would more electricity created from biomass, benefiting Weyerhaeuser and other companies with pulp and paper mills. Pre-1999 biomass plants would be grandfathered in but would have to pay a new fee.
Some utilities have had to purchase additional renewable power that it didn't need in order meet the law's requirements, resulting in increased rates for customers. "Buying power takes strategic planning and we want to be strategic about how we spend our customers' money," said Miller. "Buying wind that we don't need to replace hydro we already have is not very strategic."
Oversupply of renewable energy is expected to continue affecting Clark County and Washington, with no clear solution on the horizon, according to Bonneville Power Administration officials. With wind energy farms expanding in the Columbia River Gorge, the federal power marketing agency has struggled with the issue of energy oversupply.
Snohomish County PUD officials estimate that acquiring renewables ahead of need - just to comply with the law - could cost its ratepayers between $20 million to $30 million by 2020 if additional growth doesn't come to justify the investment. That traditional hydropower doesn't count toward the state targets remains a sore spot for many in hydropower-rich North Central Washington.
Paying negative prices would reduce BPA's surplus power sales, which would ultimately increase its own customers' rates. BPA contends its customers shouldn't have to subsidize California ratepayers, since most wind power is sold out of state. BPA has curtailed some 100,000 megawatt hours of electricity from wind farms so far this year.
At night and on weekends, when demand was low, the Bonneville Power Administration ordered wind farms to shut down, saying there was more electricity than the region needed or could export.
Since May 18, BPA has ordered wind generators to shut down several hours a day, usually in the low-power-demand nighttime hours. The result so far has been the loss of 74,114 megawatt hours of wind energy, or about 15% of what the wind farms might normally have generated.
The driver isn't need. The Northwest has plenty of power and most of it is already bona fide renewable. Wind power is here because state mandates force utilities to buy power they don't need and the federal government subsidizes producers' bottom lines. False incentives that encourage wind producers to keep building will exacerbate the region's glut of power production.
Tax breaks to encourage wind power are only justified -- if they're justified at all -- when renewable energy replaces electricity produced by a dirtier source. ...With so much water in the rivers, BPA's only alternative would have been to curtail hydroelectric production to make room on the transmission system for wind power.