“The idea behind the birth of Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy seemed like a good one. A journal concentrating on policy issues. No equations. However, from the very first issue I could see that something was wrong…. [I]n the area of renewable energy, EEEP did not fulfill the function of encouraging open debate.”
I am Jim Plummer, the 74 year old founder of the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE). In 1977, I had just moved from the federal government (EPA and then the Executive Office of the President under Gerald Ford) to Occidental Petroleum. I observed that there were very competent energy economists in the private sector, public sector, and academia, but there wasn’t a lot of communication among them.
So, I founded the IAEE, and was its second president. I was honored to work closely with Sam Schurr, the first president, and M. A. Adelman, its third president. In the ten years that followed my presidency, I was pleased to serve on the editorial board of the Energy Journal and work closely with its founding editor, Helmut Frank.
From 1990 on, I still attended IAEE meetings and was pleased to see its international expansion. From 2009 on I decided to once again engage in the IAEE, and observed some things that troubled me. The idea behind the birth of Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy seemed like a good one. A journal concentrating on policy issues. No equations.
However, from the very first issue I could see that something was wrong. I learned that a high percentage of the articles were not really “peer reviewed” articles that had been independently submitted, but rather were articles that had been solicited by the editor of the journal, Professor Jean-Michel Glachant of the European University. I observed that a disproportionate share of the articles were devoted to how European governments were trying to promote renewable energy. Those articles, written mainly by European academics, did not seem to present balanced analysis.
Moreover, EEEP never published articles with any criticisms of renewable energy. Also, in contrast to the practice of other policy journals, there was no debate on renewable energy issues. No comments were even entertained. So, in the area of renewable energy, EEEP did not fulfill the function of encouraging open debate.
I see now an announcement that EEEP will consider publication of “Letters to the Editor.” However, the announcement does not tell you that Editor Glachant will consider only letters of two typewritten pages or less, and a letter cannot contain anything that Glachant considers to be an “accusation of bias.” If you look at other policy journals, the debate on contentious issues often include what could be interpreted as an “accusation of bias.” And Professor Glachant is hardly a neutral judge of what is or is not an accusation of bias with regard to the economics of renewable energy.
It was troubling to me to see the original objectives of the IAEE perverted when it came to open debate about renewable energy. I attended Council meetings, as I am entitled to do as a past President, and was even more concerned. Key senior European members of the IAEE, who are themselves vocal renewables advocates, acted to protect the Editor of EEEP and preserve practices that discouraged open debate on renewable energy issues. That same practice was present in the selection of plenary speakers and topics at the meetings of the IAEE.
In 2013 I founded the Climate Economics Foundation (CEF). Its website is www.climecon.org. Among the initial projects of the CEF is preparation of a book entitled Rethinking the Economics of Global Warming and Renewable Energy, by myself and multiple international authors. The Divergence Graphic follows:
As you can see, there is over time an increasing divergence between estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) and the $ cost per tonne of CO2 avoided via renewable energy. That gap is the economic waste per tonne of carbon dioxide avoided. The dramatic increases in the $ cost per tonne avoided via renewables are due to many factors: 1) the low load factor for the intermittent renewables, 2) the lower value of kwh during their typical hours of supply, and 3) most importantly, the “indirect system costs” that renewables impose on grid operation, which force the use of “shadowing” gas turbine generators, and the purchase of more options for import or export of power from neighboring grids.
The costs per tonne of avoided CO2 via renewables escalates sharply as renewables advocates try to force renewables penetration to higher percentages. Our case studies show how this has happened and will happen much more in California, the U.K. and Germany.
These are issues where there is room for much debate. Our position is simply that the funds and other resources of the IAEE should not be used to push just one point of view to the exclusions of others. In future issues of this “IAEE Founder’s Newsletter,” I will provide “EEEP critiques” of some of the articles that have appeared in EEEP. Those critiques are also available on our website at www.climecon.org . This newsletter will also contain commentary on IAEE governance and the content of IAEE conferences.
I look forward to the time when it will no longer be necessary to publish these newsletters.
If you wish to view a 28 slide preview of Rethinking the Economics of Global Warming and Renewable Energy, you may do so by clicking here. Importantly, the preview does not yet contain the results of analyses by power system engineers in California, the U.K. and Germany.
If you wish to join a discussion group of about 200 economists engaged in debate and exchange of viewpoints and research results, you may do so by clicking here.
Jim Plummer, MBA, Ph.D, is the founder of the International Association for Energy Economics.