When discussing the economic merits of wind energy and the large subsidies wind energy receives, the rejoinder from a typical proponent is usually something about how much more subsidies the gas and oil companies receive, and if we’d just level the playing field, wind would be competitive. This is, of course, pure nonsense. The actual numbers, which proponents seem universally unaware of (don’t confuse us with the facts!), tell a different story. Continue reading U.S. Subsidies, 2010
One of the major selling points of wind energy projects is the economic benefits enjoyed by the landowners and developers. Exactly why the government should be concerned with increasing the income to these private parties is unclear. Sometimes the local government itself is a beneficiary of a project, and then the project makes sense from strictly a local perspective. The evidence shows, however, that the decreases in property taxes due to decreases in valuations can, depending on the area, more than offset the project’s benefits stream. Still, I can see why just from a local perspective a project could well result in economic benefits.
But increasingly larger government bodies – like state, provincial and national governments, are claiming economic benefits in wind projects also. Instead of direct payments they generally point to increased jobs. I just don’t get it. If all you want to do is to increase jobs, why not hire people to dig holes and more people to fill them in? You’d have the jobs, they’d be about as productive, and they would avoid the environmental issues of wind turbines. Hear me out, please.
In my Emissions Savings Details posting I mentioned the problems when there is too much wind energy (which is, after all, uncontrollable) being produced during periods (typically overnight) of low usage. In Ontario, they solved the problem, if you can call this a solution, by taking a CO2-free nuclear generator offline. In the UK, they solve the problem by telling the wind projects to turn off their production. That, in itself, is no big deal – it is routine to tell the producers to shut their production down to balance the grid. The big deal is that in spite of no production, the projects still get paid their very high subsidized rates even when they don’t produce.
One aspect of wind energy that is not much discussed is opportunity costs. Certainly the financial and environmental costs are substantial enough in their own right. Much harder to pin down are the things that don’t get done because the powers-that-be are so focused on renewable energy in general and wind energy in particular. In other words, does all the time, money and effort put into wind energy significantly detract from other better options or more important issues? While hard conclusions are impossible in all but the rarest of cases, there’s certainly some indications that our focus on wind energy may have already cost us dearly. Continue reading Opportunity Costs
Wind energy proponents try to make the claim that wind energy can compete on a level playing field with other forms of energy generation. A quick look at the numbers shows this to be untrue. The EIA – a government agency – periodically releases their estimate of subsidies paid to different forms of energy generation, and that estimate indicates that wind receives far more subsidies, by over an order of magnitude, than any of the traditional methods. When this is pointed out, proponents then talk about how all “new” forms of technology need support, conveniently skipping over the fact that wind energy is not particularly new and there have been no major new advances in efficiency since the 3-blade Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine became the standard back in the 90’s. One could argue that energy storage and transmission technologies that are necessary adjuncts to wind energy might need R and D monies, but what does that have to do with wind turbines themselves?
Anyway, here’s links to the EIA’s numbers. And these are just the federal numbers. The states pitch in their fair share in addition to these numbers.
Federal Subsidies, original link to the EIA site.
Federal Subsidies, backup link.
Parker Gallant is a retired banker in Ontario, and he’s become very interested in how his power bills keep going up. While he has no experience in the power sector, he obviously knows how to read financial statements and what questions to ask. The National Post has published a series of articles where Gallant relates what he has found, and what he has found is just a mess. Continue reading Parker Gallant