‘Green’ Wind, ‘Smart’ Grid–A Thought Experiment and a Policy Proposal for the Environmental Left
Suppose you began this morning by learning that some investors and developers had stepped forward with a reportedly new type of commercial grade electrical power called “Zephyr Integrated Power” (ZIP). Being clever, they are spending a LOT of time and money marketing ZIP, knowing that this is their chance to break into the grid in a BIG way.
Their message– ZIP is “FREE, CLEAN, AND GREEN”–sounds great! Oh yes, and for good measure, ZIP will create oodles of jobs.
So the basic question is this: exactly what do we do before we allow these people and their new product on the electric grid?
We wouldn’t be so gullible to just take their word for it, would we? Yet this is exactly what we are doing today!
And there is more: our politicians are so enamored with ZIP that they tell these promoters that we will not only allow them on the grid, we will FORCE utilities to use ZIP. (Hmmm. Wouldn’t utilities WANT to use ZIP if it was so great?) How are utilities going to be forced to use ZIP? Lobbyists have sold our politicians a clever tool called the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to do just that.
Yet there is more. Despite the supposed benefits (which a free market would obviously jump on without government involvement), our wise government is going to offer the ZIP promoters billions of dollars of taxpayer money and ratepayer guarantees to support their product.
Remember, all this is without independent proof that ZIP has any real benefits…
Sadly, this astounding state of affairs is how our currently lobbyist-driven system operates.
Policy Proposal for the Environmental Left
The Left looks to government to do good things for the environment. My Pollyanna vision is that complex technical matters should be solved by science. So here is my (government-involved) proposal (with apologies to the libertarian bloggers and readers of MasterResource). It would go something like this…
A. The Zephyr Power promoters would be sincerely thanked for their efforts, and asked to submit their information to a federal energy agency that would be roughly equivalent to the FDA. Let’s call it the EAA (Energy Assessment Agency), which would have some similarities to the former Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). The EAA would do one thing: make a scientific assessment as to whether or not ZIP met the standards of our existing sources of electrical power.
B. “Scientific” means that there would be a comprehensive, independent and transparent evaluation of the merits of such proposals, like ZIP. It would be up to the promoters to provide whatever information is needed for a proper assessment (just like pharmaceutical companies are required to do for the FDA).
C. All new industrial electrical power sources would be scientifically evaluated in three areas:
2) economics, and
Again, they would be compared to verify that they meet (or exceed) our existing options. (Why would anything be approved that was an inferior choice?)
D. If ZIP passes with flying colors, then (and ONLY then) will it be allowed on the grid, and supported (as appropriate) with public funds.
My proposed reform (call it science-and-reality-based) is a radical departure from the politically (lobbyist) driven approach we now use. The end result (assuming good government) would be profoundly different — not only making real contributions to the energy and environmental issues we have, but in truly benefiting citizens and businesses. Yet our current system is so dysfunctional and corrupt that we are supporting sources that fail all three evaluation areas.
For instance, a key consideration in the Technical part, is the impact of any proposed new source on our existing electrical grid.
Carefully consider this question: “Compared to our other alternatives, name one consequential benefit that wind energy provides to our electrical grid.”
I am aware of some serious grid liabilities of adding wind energy, but zero benefits — but please correct me if I’m wrong. So it’s our choice: throw away hundreds of billions to support lobbyist agendas, or take a scientific approach and get an enormously higher bang for our buck.