“RGGI proponents want us to believe that the program is delivering on a global environmental promise, but the reality is the nine-state cap and trade system is a colossal failure of resource allocation that should be repealed to leave more efficient market forces.”
“During the Ohio debate, safety repeatedly took a backseat to economic opportunity. However, the problem for the wind industry is that safety is increasingly an issue as the incidence of turbine failure appears to be accelerating.”
[Editor Note: A new feature at MasterResource will periodically review important wind-related news in the US and around the world. For proponents of fuel-neutral, let-the-market-decide energy policy, as well as those opposing industrial wind turbines for environmental reasons, the news is increasingly positive. It should be highlighted and shared to motivate grassroots energy activists. MasterResource is indebted to Lisa Linowes for authoring this new series.]
The Failure of RGGI
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (‘RGGI’) is the darling of regulators in the nine participating states that include New England, New York, Delaware and Maryland. RGGI boosters insist the carbon cap-and-trade program is responsible for precipitous declines in carbon emissions, saving consumers hundreds of millions in energy costs, creating thousands of new jobs and improving public health.
The problem for the boosters is that RGGI’s own numbers do not support their glowing claims.
Citing from the September 2016 report by RGGI.org, (“The Investment of RGGI Proceeds through 2014”), fossil plant owners in the RGGI states, or more exactly, consumers of their energy, forked over $1.79 billion to their state governments in the period from 2008 to 2014 to be spent on programs meant to reduce carbon emissions.
Of these funds, the states seized $93.1 million to meet budget shortfalls, allocated $329.4 for future programs and ‘invested’ the remaining $1.37 billion in projects that by 2014 reportedly trained 7,200 workers and reduced carbon emissions by 1.7 million tons with an expected lifetime carbon avoidance of 15.4 million tons.
Impressed? Don’t be!
In the same period (2008–2014) the free market reduced electric sector carbon emissions in the RGGI states by 43.1 million tons – 25 times more than RGGI’s claim – and at no cost to ratepayers! 
But it doesn’t end there.
Since 2008, the clearing price for RGGI allowances has averaged $3.31 per ton. At their highest, the allowances reached $7.50 in December 2015 before tumbling to $2.54 per ton today. But this fact has repeatedly been lost on state regulators who approved spending $1.37 billion to lower emissions by just 15.4 million tons which equates to $89 per ton! In short, RGGI sold allowances for well under $10/ton and then RGGI states built offset projects costing $89/ton. On specific projects, the cost per allowance was often much higher.
RGGI proponents want us to believe that the program is delivering on a global environmental promise, but the reality is the nine-state cap and trade system is a colossal failure of resource allocation that should be repealed to leave more efficient market forces.
Ohio Puts Safety First
Late last month, Ohio State Senator Cliff Hite unveiled a last minute amendment to the Senate’s final state budget bill that, if enacted, would drastically reduce the state’s minimum turbine setback distance from 1300-feet to the property line of adjacent parcels to 1.2 times turbine height.
Big wind advocates aggressively pushed for passage of the Hite amendment claiming the current setback protections were excessive and unnecessary, froze development in the state, and barred billions in wind-related investment in the state.
During the debate, safety repeatedly took a backseat to economic opportunity. However, the problem for the wind industry is that safety is increasingly an issue as the incidence of turbine failure appears to be accelerating.
We were reminded of the 2012 Ohio Supreme court order affirming the Ohio Power Siting Board’s (OPSB) approval for the Buckeye Wind facility to proceed. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Stratton chastised the OPSB staff for accepting Buckeye’s safety claims despite a lack of evidence and closed with this “…’ …even though this appeal represents the final review of the final order of the board, we have no evidence that the project is being built safely away from yards and homes, and we never will. Yet the majority affirms the order.”
The Buckeye project is still in litigation but Justice Stratton’s concerns have already been demonstrated in the field. A month after her dissent, two blades on a Vestas V100 1.8 MW wind turbine sited at an operating project in Ohio shattered under high wind conditions catapulting blade debris up to 1,000 feet from the turbine’s foundation. The Hite amendment would have placed property owners at risk.
But in news this week, worried Ohio residents were pleased to learn that the Hite amendment has been withdrawn from the budget bill.
 RGGI does not cited the number of jobs created. Workers trained represents the total number of “training seats filled directly by the program from inception through to 2014” without double counting workers who might have attended more than one training course.
 The $1.5 million price tag for Sofia’s Plaza in Connecticut to install a 0.5 MW solar PV system (rooftop and ground-based) was funded 100% through RGGI auction proceeds. According to RGGI, the project is expected to annually save 475.2 MWh and avoid 275 carbon tons (5,500 short tons saved over 20 years). Based on these figures, the cost per carbon ton over 20 years is $273.
 See Sec. 4906.20 of the Ohio Budget Bill HB 49 as passed by the Senate. The wording also requires turbines to be situated at least 1,225 feet in horizontal distance from the exterior of the nearest, habitable, residential structure if any is located on adjacent property at the time when a project application is approved.
 While expedient to blame safety setback distances for a slowdown in wind development, the more likely reason for the slowdown was passage of SB310 (2014) which, in part, removed a provision of the Ohio RPS that required half of the mandate be met with in-state generation. Once that change was made, it removed the premium paid for building wind in Ohio as opposed to surrounding states.