The one thing that South Australia’s vapid Premier, Jay Weatherill and his hapless sidekick, Tom Koutsantonis can never complain about from here on is a lack of attention.
South Australia’s internationally renowned power pricing and supply calamity is driven by a maniacal obsession with wind power.
The circumstances that led to the events on 28 September (aka Black Wednesday) – when the majority of South Australia’s 18 wind farms deliberately shut themselves down – to protect themselves from catastrophic damage during a typical, blustery spring storm – and the immediate loss of 445MW of wind power caused the worst blackout in South Australian history – are being dissected by energy market economists around the globe.
True, it is, that South Australia isn’t being held up as a shining example of a ‘wonderful’ wind powered future, but is, rather, being used as a dire warning to any other state or nation determined to run on sunshine and breezes.
In economic terms, South Australia provides the perfect model for those keen to destroy jobs, income and wealth; in street terms, SA is simply an international laughing stock.
In 2016, the only places where politicians can still get away with pushing wind power are those where there is little or no wind power capacity at all; or where wind power capacity still only represents a piddling proportion of total generating capacity. One such place is the United States of America.
The run up to the US Presidential election has drawn focus on the drive by wind worshipping Democrats to pump $billions in renewable subsidies to win the votes of the hard-green lunatic left and to line the pockets of crony capitalists along the way (which are often one and the same).
Here’s a take from energy market economist, Rupert Darwall.
Hillary Clinton’s Blackout America
21 October 2016
Three presidential debates in which there was only one question on the subject that, more than any other, would transform America under Hillary Clinton. “We can be the 21st-century clean-energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses,” the Democratic nominee declared during the second debate. Does she really think that? Does she even know what she really thinks?
Privately, Mrs. Clinton is as close as you can get to an energy realist in a party completely in hock to the environmental movement. She wants to defend fracking and natural gas, but daren’t in public. As the WikiLeaks hack reveals, she tells a blue-collar audience that environmentalist activists should get a life, but doesn’t tell them that to their faces. “The honeymoon won’t last ten minutes,” green activist Bill McKibben warned earlier this week, threatening to redouble the green onslaught on her from November 9.
In truth, McKibben and his allies have already won. Whatever she thinks, Clinton is a prisoner of her public positions. She promises to install half a billion solar panels by 2020, a sevenfold increase from today, and has set a target to generate one-third of America’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027. It would mean that the U.S. would beat the EU’s 27 percent target by three years and six percentage points.
This is an absurdly vast challenge. Even the Europeans have soured on the costs and immense practical difficulties of integrating unreliable wind and solar into the grid.
The benefits of Mrs. Clinton’s plan would flow mostly to China — eight of the top ten manufacturers of solar photovoltaic panels last year were Chinese. Its costs would fall on Americans in the form of spiraling electricity bills, a large part of which would go to pay for grid-management tools to reduce the risk of blackouts, and even these may not work very well.
A case in point: South Australia, where coal-fired power stations have been replaced with wind farms. Forty percent of its electricity comes from renewable energy — and the state has the most expensive electricity in Australia. When, earlier this year, the last coal-fired power station was taken off-line, South Australians were warned they were heading into uncharted waters. “There’s an increased level of risk that we haven’t seen anywhere in the world,” Matthew Warren, chief executive of the Australian Energy Council, said last May.
Four months later, South Australians learned what that meant. During a heavy storm on September 28, a cascade of events occurring within 12 seconds — faults on transmission towers, a consequent sudden reduction in output from six wind farms, which shut down to prevent damage, whereupon the interconnector from neighboring Victoria shut down as well — led to the collapse of the system, plunging the state into a blackout.
Renewables apologists said the weather and the transmission towers were the cause, with climate scientist Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University blaming climate change for contributing to increased storm intensity. “This is a prelude to a disturbing future. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t address climate change,” he said. As Australian blogger Joanne Nova explains, “A stable grid needs ‘synchronous inertia’ — big reliable turbines that drive at near constant speeds. Coal turbines are 600 tons and spin at 3,000 rpm. That’s inertia.”
Low inertia grids lack this gyroscopic stability and are inherently unstable. Wind and solar offer the grid no inertia, making a system that is dependent on them very fragile. If you actually believe that man-made climate change makes storms worse, it’s pretty dumb to make the grid more vulnerable to bad weather.
To mitigate the effects of variable weather and sunlight, renewables lobbyists argue that interconnectors between grids can create a pan-continental super-grid, something Mrs. Clinton alluded to in the third debate when she said she wanted an electric grid that crosses borders.
The shutdown of the interconnector with Victoria confirms European experience and shows this argument for what it is. While interconnectors are useful for trading electricity, when they are most needed for balancing, they are likely to shut down to protect themselves from being overloaded.
We’re learning the hard way what we lose when we take big, heavy gas and coal-fired power stations off the grid. They don’t just supply electrical energy; they also supply stability, reliability, and resilience. And they get you up and running again after a system failure. As electrical engineers put it, you can’t “black start” a grid with wind and solar.
Should Mrs. Clinton want a preview of the effects of her wind and solar plans closer to home, she could look across the St. Lawrence River at what’s happening in the liberal utopia of Ontario.
In the province’s 2003 election, Liberals promised to replace the 25 percent of electricity it was getting from coal with wind and solar. Ontario now boasts of being the first jurisdiction in North America with a significant reliance on coal to eliminate all coal-fired electricity.
What it doesn’t talk about is the effect on utility bills, for one very good reason: Electricity prices in Ontario have doubled since 2005. As documented by the Financial Post’s Terence Corcoran, the policy is a complete fiasco. Reductions in carbon dioxide emissions have been achieved at a cost of $187 per tonne, half as much again as the very top of the range of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 Social Cost of Carbon of $13 to $122 per tonne.
Such is the voter backlash that the province’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, can’t mention the name of Ontario’s electrical utility without being booed. “Ontarians have never been this angry,” a polling organization reported.
What of Mrs. Clinton’s promise to make America a clean-energy superpower? Keynesian economists such as Harvard’s Larry Summers are in a funk about secular stagnation. Productivity data from Britain show what happens when politicians and environmentalists take control of the electricity sector. In the ten years ending in 2004, output per hour more than doubled. In the ten years since 2004, output per hour fell by 40.2 percent.
You don’t have to be a Harvard economics professor to see that if you increase the labor and capital needed to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity, its cost goes up and the productivity of your economy goes down. Higher electricity bills for the privilege of a less reliable grid? Welcome to Hillary Clinton’s blackout America.
While a few states, like California and Texas were quick to back heavily subsidised wind power – and a few others, like Wisconsin and Idaho, soon joined in – the vast majority of the United States has avoided wind power like the plague: and for good reason – Michigan’s wind rush has, so far, destroyed more than 24,000 real jobs (see our post here).
With evidence of power market chaos unfolding in places like Idaho and Wyoming, some states moved legislation to freeze or repeal their mandated renewable targets in an effort to keep a lid on power prices – and others are considering capping or cutting their targets, even in America’s wind power capital, Texas (see our post here).
And there is absolutely no doubt that those American States with high Renewable Portfolio Standards (ie mandated renewable targets) and significant proportions of wind power capacity suffer the highest power prices in the USA. Back in 2014, a review of US power costs by Forbes found power prices were skyrocketing wherever there had been any significant increase in wind power capacity: Want skyrocketing power prices? Just add Wind Power
Here’s a summary of that report:
Skyrocketing Costs in Wind Power States
The 11 states that the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) identifies as deriving more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind power are Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. AWEA says these 11 states have had slightly falling electricity prices since 2008, but official U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show nine of the 11 have dramatically rising prices. Here are EIA’s data on changes in electricity prices for each of the 11 states since 2008:
Colorado – up 14%
Idaho – up 33%
Iowa – up 17%
Kansas – up 29%
Minnesota – up 22%
North Dakota – up 24%
Oklahoma – down 1%
Oregon – up 15%
South Dakota – up 26%
Texas – down 19%
Wyoming – up 33%
The objective U.S. Energy Information Administration data show nine of the 11 largest wind power states are experiencing skyrocketing electricity prices, rising more than four times the national average. Moreover, prices in eight of the 11 states are rising more than twice as fast as in the 39 states with less than 7 percent wind power generation.
Forbes goes on to explain the two outliers, Texas and Oklahoma:
The Two Outliers Explained
Other important factors further rebut AWEA’s claims in the two heavy wind power states where electricity prices are not skyrocketing.
In Oklahoma, where electricity prices remained essentially flat, there is no renewable power mandate. To the extent wind power is produced in Oklahoma, market forces, rather than state government, determine its generation. AWEA curiously argues relatively stable electricity prices in a state without renewable power mandates justify AWEA’s call for renewable power mandates.
In Texas, economists agree, electricity prices have been falling in recent years as a result of the state’s deregulation efforts during the past decade. Texas coal power, natural gas power, nuclear power, and wind power are all experiencing declining prices due to deregulation. Yet AWEA falsely ascribes the state’s declining electricity prices to wind power.
AWEA’s self-serving formula uses Texas’ deregulation to hide the cumulatively skyrocketing electricity prices in the 10 other states that generate the most wind power.
Despite what’s being threatened by hopeful Clintonistas, numerous States, including Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico and West Virginia have either pulled the plug on their “Renewable Energy Mandates” (State based subsidy schemes) or are set on the path to do so. What spooked them into action is the fact that:
“[E]lectricity prices in states with renewable energy mandates have risen twice as fast as in states with no renewable requirement. Electricity prices in states with mandates are 40 percent higher than in non-REM states.”
Here’s the Washington Times from March last year reporting on the efforts being made by US States to rein in runaway power costs, by slashing their renewable targets.
Pulling the plug on renewable energy: States with mandates suffer exploding electricity prices
The Washington Times
29 March 2015
There is never a good time for bad public policy. For few policies is this more evident than renewable energy mandates (REM), variously known as renewable portfolio standards, alternative energy standards and renewable energy standards.
The first renewable energy mandate was adopted in 1983, but most states did not impose these mandates until the 2000s. Though the details vary from state to state, in general, renewable energy mandates require utilities to provide a certain percentage of the electric power they supply from “renewable” sources, notably wind and solar, with the required percentages rising over time.
At the height of the renewable-energy mania, 30 states and the District of Columbia had imposed REMs and another seven had established voluntary standards.
Renewable energy mandate proponents included environmental lobbyists with a hatred for capitalism and fossil fuels that make modern society possible, crony socialists who saw the mandates as way of strong-arming exorbitant payments from government and ratepayers alike, and paternalistic politicians who look down on people’s choices in the marketplace, believing they know best what sources of energy people ought to choose.
Green-energy advocates, crony socialists and government elitists have seen their fortunes wax and wane over five decades. Government subsidies for unreliable, expensive renewable fuels had risen, fallen, been scrapped and begun anew since the 1970s. The existence and amount of subsidies tended to rise in fall with various energy crises — crises often created by the same government that then proposed subsidies for renewable energy as the solution for the problems it created.
For 50 years, green-energy gurus in industry and the environmental movement have sold the snake oil that renewable power would soon be as cheap and reliable as coal, oil, nuclear and natural gas. The nation has been told the turning point has always been just around the corner, always requiring a little more public funding and tax breaks before we have abundant, cheap, clean, reliable energy materializing from thin air.
All these promises were false, and the public and more-honest politicians have seen through the sales pitch. Now, support for renewables is as unreliable as the energy it provides.
To guarantee a market for renewables, green lobbyists fought successfully for mandates ensuring green-energy producers a slice of the electricity market regardless of the price and quality of the energy they produced.
Energy prices skyrocketed, as predicted by numerous energy analysts.
Though cost is an important concern, it is not the only problem with renewable power sources.
Renewable energy is not environmentally friendly. Renewable energy mandates have turned millions of acres of wild lands and wildlife habitats into a vast wasteland of wind and solar industrial energy facilities. In the process, renewable energy facilities have condemned to death hundreds of thousands of animals, including endangered birds, bats and tortoises. Finally, the construction and maintenance of these facilities have polluted the air and water. There is nothing green about all this. Still, continuing high costs, not environmental concerns, may finally spell doom for the mandates.
Citing high costs, Ohio became the first state to freeze its renewable energy mandate. Under Ohio’s mandate, utilities would have been required to provide 25 percent of the state’s electricity from qualified renewable sources by 2025. Under a law signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in June 2014, Ohio froze its mandate at the current level of 12.5 percent, halving the mandated level.
In January, West Virginia repealed its renewable energy mandate entirely, and the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill freezing the state’s renewable standards in March.
Kansas has also recently held hearings on repealing its renewable energy mandate, spurred on in part by a new report from Utah State University reporting Kansas ratepayers are paying $171 million more than they would without the mandate. These additional costs have resulted in a loss of $4,367 each year in household disposable income.
What’s true for Kansas is true for other states with renewable energy mandates. States with mandates experienced 10 percent greater unemployment, due to higher energy prices resulting from the REM, than states without mandates. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy has found electricity prices in states with renewable energy mandates have risen twice as fast as in states with no renewable requirement. Electricity prices in states with mandates are 40 percent higher than in non-REM states.
With these facts, it is little wonder that states are doing a slow walk back from their previous support of costly, environmentally harmful renewable energy mandates. It’s a classic case of legislate in haste, repent in leisure.
H. Sterling Burnett is a research fellow on energy and the environment at the Heartland Institute.
The Washington Times