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Category — International wind projects

Peter Lang on Australian Windpower: High Costs, Low Emission Reduction

The higher costs and inferior reliability of government-mandated wind power and solar power are well known to students of the electricity market. Many analyses on wind and solar have documented their real-world problems.

But another negative aspect of wind and solar technologies is their failure to live up to their raison d’être: emissions reduction. As I have explained in a four-part post, firming intermittent electric generation requires very inefficient fossil-fuel generation that creates incremental emissions compared to a situation where there is not wind or solar and fossil-fired generation can run more smoothly. This is a huge insight, a game changer, that could take the renewable energy debate in a new direction entirely.

A number of studies are emerging that quantify both the cost premium of politically-forced renewables and the minimal amounts of emissions reduction (and even notable emissions increase) resulting from their use. Country-specific studies (such as the one under review) present a methodology that is applicable to other jurisdictions (such as the U.S.) to better assess policy options and their consequences for all stakeholders, including taxpayers.

Peter Lang’s important new study, Emissions Cuts Realities – Electricity Generation, analyzes five options for the Australian electricity system for cutting CO2 emissions over the period 2010 to 2050 compared to business-as-usual (BAU) in terms of cost. The range of CO2 emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2010 is from zero to 80%.

The conclusions that Lang draws include:

  1. The nuclear option provides the largest reduction in CO2 emissions – 80%.
  2. Any CO2 emissions reduction achieved with wind and solar thermal (there are arguably none and even increases) is “achieved” at a very high cost – 250-300% of 2010 costs.

Lang’s analysis is very conservative. The author’s preference seems to be to gain an unassailable beachhead in a very contentious debate. But in reviewing his data, I see confirmation that new wind or solar capacity provide marginal reduction in CO2 emissions at best. I would even argue that there are emission increases because any reductions due to new renewables are dependent upon solar thermal technology development by 2020 providing sufficient thermal storage to allow operation for 8,000 hours per year.

Other conclusions that can be reached are:

  1. The nuclear option provides an effective ‘bridge’ to future generation technologies.
  2. The extraordinarily large funding required for the implementation of new renewables in this period would be better spent on energy efficiency/conservation programs and in research and development for other technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear waste management, nuclear fusion and solar.

In summary, Lang’s study and other considerations provide another illustration of the failure of industrial-scale new renewables, particularly wind and in the near future, solar, to meet societies’ goals. They do not provide the impact that is needed in terms of energy independence, avoidance of fossil fuel use and reductions in CO2 emissions that conventional wisdom, with all its inadequacies, dictates.

My summary of Lang’s paper follows. [

January 21, 2010   9 Comments

"The Unbearable Lightness of Wind" (EU update)

[Editor note: Ross McCracken is editor of Platts Energy Economist]

Where support mechanisms are sufficiently generous, wind power is racing ahead. In the European Union, where supported by feed-in tariffs in countries like Germany and Spain, wind power targets are very likely to be met, if not exceeded. Last year, more wind capacity was installed in the EU than any other energy source, for the first time outstripping even natural gas.

Wind has become the “market choice” because the technology is mature, bank lending is assured where prices are guaranteed, and the supply-side has been steadily ramping up production capacity. And wind is the only viable renewable that can deliver large amounts of installed capacity in the short term.

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. As wind penetration increases, the pricing effects become more extreme, impacting the profitability of existing baseload and peaking power plant, albeit in different ways. Surges in wind power create ‘spill,’ unwanted power that sends spot market prices to zero, reducing revenues from existing plant and increasing the redundancy of more flexible plant. This might be good news for consumers but bad for investment in non-intermittent sources of power, presenting the risk of a decline in reserve capacity. [Read more →]

May 21, 2009   4 Comments

Speaking Truth to Wind Power (Testifying against Ontario’s Green Energy Act)


My wife and I (like many other residents) chose a retirement home in Grey Highlands because it is one of the scenic treasures of southwestern Ontario, dominated by the Niagara Escarpment, Beaver Valley, Lake Eugenia, the Saugeen River, and rolling rural countryside, woodlands, and wetlands. Now, however, the residents of Grey Highlands and the many tourists and visitors it attracts (major drivers of the local economy) are threatened with the prospect that its landscape will be blighted by 400-foot, 35-story-high industrial wind turbines that cause documented health and environmental risks, dramatically lower property values and impact one’s quality of life.

The Green Energy Act (Bill 150), now before the Ontario Legislature,  is designed to expedite this process by taking planning responsibilities away from local municipalities like ours and remitting key decisions to subsequent ministerial regulations, leaving local residents no say in matters that will dramatically impact their lives and those of future generations. While we are obviously personally affected by this legislation, the following comments reflect a professional career studying economic regulation, including a year as Research Director of the Ontario Government’s Electricity Market Design Committee (1998). I have four major objections to the legislation. [Read more →]

April 16, 2009   5 Comments

The Mafia Finds Windpower: Report from Italy

So, the bad guys are found in the green business, too. Police in Italy have charged eight people, allegedly with Mafia connections,  for corrupting local politicians in order to get a project for a wind farm in Sicily assigned to companies close to the Mafia. Honest people in the renewable industry, such as Carlo Durante of the Milan-based Maestrale Green Energy, have pointed out that the main reason why the Mafia can play the renewable game is the confusion and uncertainty in the licensing process, which has too many people involved in giving the authorizations and a great degree of arbitrariness. There is more than a grain of truth in this: It doesn’t apply to the renewable business alone, indeed, but it is a general feature of “doing business” in the country, as a World Bank survey demonstrates eloquently. [Read more →]

February 26, 2009   4 Comments