Today’s “No Shit Sherlock” award goes to the New York Times‘s environment pages for their belated discovery that renewable energy is a lame duck.
Is the global effort to combat climate change, painstakingly agreed to in Paris seven months ago, already going off the rails?
Germany, Europe’s champion for renewable energy, seems to be having second thoughts about its ambitious push to ramp up its use of renewable fuels for power generation.
Hoping to slow the burst of new renewable energy on its grid, the country eliminated an open-ended subsidy for solar and wind power and put a ceiling on additional renewable capacity.
Germany may also drop a timetable to end coal-fired generation, which still accounts for over 40 percent of its electricity, according to a report leaked from the country’s environment ministry. Instead, the government will pay billions to keep coal generators in reserve, to provide emergency power at times when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.
According to the green experts, this is because people prefer energy which is cheap and available to energy which is expensive and intermittent.
“The issue is, how do we decarbonize the electricity sector, while keeping the lights on, keeping costs low and avoiding unintended consequences that could make emissions increase?” said Jan Mazurek, who runs the clean power campaign at the environmental advocacy group ClimateWorks.
What we are witnessing here is a straightforward clash between wishful thinking and reality.
As an example of wishful thinking, consider the case of a politician called Tom Koutsantonis, who came to power with a bold promise to reduce net carbon emissions in his jurisdiction to zero by 2050.
Koutsantonis happens to be an Aussie – Treasurer and Energy Minister for South Australia (which is the state bottom left with Adelaide in it) – but he’s the embodiment of an entire caste of shyster politicians from California to London to Toronto and elsewhere, all of them in thrall to the same groupthink.
They’re all either unprincipled or incredibly stupid – or both. They all nurture the delusion that green issues are still so overwhelmingly popular with their voters that just so long as they mouth the right environmental platitudes everyone will get with their program and think they’re great.
This is fine – right up until the point where all those green platitudes translate into action.
That’s where the problems begin.
Last week, according to The Australian newspaper, South Australia was recording wholesale electricity prices more than thirty times those in eastern states. (Which also have silly green emissions targets, btw. Just not quite as insane as South Australia’s)
To give you a feel for the figures, last Thursday at 1.45pm, the wholesale power price in South Australia was recorded at $1001 per megawatt hour, compared with prices of between $30/MWh and $32/MWh for the eastern states. At one point, the maximum price in the state hit $1400/MWh.
Koutsantonis was so proud of his environmental friendliness that last year his government issued a Climate Change Strategy for South Australia, saying:
“…to realise the benefits, we need to be bold. That is why we have said that by 2050 our state will have net zero emissions. We want to send a clear signal to businesses around the world: if you want to innovate, if you want to perfect low carbon technologies necessary to halt global warming — come to South Australia.”
Oddly enough however, heavy-energy using companies in South Australia – among them BHP Billiton and steelmaker Arrium – have not responded to the “clean”-energy-driven surge in wholesale electricity prices with press releases saying how proud they are to be based in Australia’s greenest state and helping to “halt global warming”.
On the contrary, they are threatening to leave.
Meanwhile, as you’d fully expect, the green caravan trundles on oblivious.
In the US, for example, Obama’s expert advisers continue to reassure him that more of this unreliable, unstable, mega-expensive, bat-chomping, bird-slicing, duck-frying, taxpayer-gouging, subsidy-grubbing, market-distorting renewable energy is just what America needs.
A report published last month by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers suggests there is space for more renewable energy on the grid. New technologies — to store power when the sun is hot or to share it across wider areas — might allow for a bigger renewable footprint.
But there are limits. “There is a very real integration cost from renewables,” said Kenneth Gillingham, an economist at Yale who wrote the report. “So far that cost is small.”
Sure, but one $500 million failed Solyndra project here, one $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar disaster there – and pretty soon you’re talking serious money…