Europe Showing Signs Of Energy Strain-Analyze It

What lies on the horizon for renewable energy?

What lies on the horizon for renewable energy?

Two energy industry heavyweights, David Garman, an assistant secretary and under secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy (2001-07), a member of the board of directors of the Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP) and Samuel Thernstrom, executive director of EIRP are pointing to issues with electricity supply in Europe as a warning to the U.S.  In an article in the Wall Street Journal, available here, Garman and Thernstrom points out that Europe’s romance with renewable energy seems to be fading.

 

Europe has bet big on wind and solar energy, and many environmental advocates would like America to follow. Wind and solar have a role in the U.S. energy economy, but we would be wise to see the cautionary tale in the European experience and adjust our plans accordingly,” the two write.  The primary issue they point out is that while Germany and Denmark get a lot of power from wind, 30 percent in Denmark, the costs are high.  The cost of electricity in Germany and Denmark now is roughly 300 percent higher than the average in the U.S.  Some people in Germany are disconnecting their electricity to avoid the costs and beginning to again heat with wood.

 

The problem is that renewables, especially wind and solar, have to have conventional-generation backup, plus heavy transmission investment to frequently remote locations.  Yes, the wind and sun are free, but the infrastructure to deliver it and provide backup for when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine is costly.  With Germany shutting down nuclear plants and the Danes having to buy backup power from other countries, balancing the load and keeping the lights on has become increasingly costly.  Garman and Thernstrom are warning that the U.S. could face similar issues in the future.

 

What really is needed is a non-political, non-advocacy (either way) analytical study of the issues.  Yes, “going green” is popular with a lot of people in this country, but with the slow recovery from recession, a lot of average people just can’t afford paying 300 percent more for electricity.  The article was entitled:

Europe’s Renewable Romance Fades: High energy bills and threats of blackouts ended the honeymoon. America, take note.  Story authors usually don’t write their own headlines in newspapers, but this one portrays the article content well.  This whole issue requires independent, non-biased analytics, of which there hasn’t been a lot.

–Warren B. Causey

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