Never Ending Story: Texans Forced to Shell Out $Billions More in Wind Power Subsidies

One thing you’ll never, ever hear from wind power outfits is a call to cut the subsidies that sustain them.

Remarkably, whether in Germany, Australia, Ontario or Texas, renewables rent seekers all speak the same language.

When talk turns to subsidies, you’ll only ever hear words like ‘more’. Challenge them about their nonsensical claims that wind power is cheap and truly competitive with coal and gas, they’ll start pleading about not doing away with subsidies, ‘just yet’.

Some cynics might suggest a needy form of addiction. STT likens it to the Never Ending Story.

Wind power outfits speared thousands of turbines across the Texas Panhandle. Now they want taxpayers to foot the bill for building the infrastructure that might enable them to deliver wind power to consumers, on those occasions when the wind is blowing just right, and not too fast (wind power doesn’t deliver during Texan Hurricanes, but nuclear power does).

Texas’s CREZ Transmission Line: Wind Power’s $7 Billion Subsidy (ratebase socialism as ‘infrastructure improvement’)
Master Resource
Robert Bradley Jr.
16 February 2018

“We see significant promise in President Trump’s plan. With 99 percent of American wind farms built in rural areas, an investment in transmission infrastructure boosts rural economies while improving resilience and reliability, delivering low cost power to consumers and strengthening U.S. energy dominance.”

– Amy Farrell, American Wind Energy Association. Quoted in Ken Silverstein, “Green Energy Is Hoping The President’s Infrastructure Plan Doesn’t Crumble.”, February 13, 2018.

“Regulators and wind power advocates say the build-out, approved by the PUC in 2008, has spurred huge investments in wind energy by assuring developers markets for the energy their turbines churn out.”

– Jim Malwitz, “$7 Billion Wind Power Project Nears Finish,” The Texas Tribune, October 13, 2013.

Do not think that the wind power industry has market viability. Without the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind would be all but dead. And without socialized transmission blessed by state and federal regulators, wind-power growth would be checked even with the hyper-generous PTC, now standing at $0.024/kWh ($0.035 pre-tax).

And if you think that the massive wind lobby–led by the $18 million American Wind Energy Association–is not going to push to get more subsidies from President Trump’s proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure improvement plan, think again.

Remember CREZ: 2008–2013
With uneconomic transmission on the table in different political venues, never forget Texas’s $7 billion gift to the wind industry.

Then Texas governor Rick Perry championed the whole deal into law, another example of Republicans setting the table for the Democrats’ energy policy: Today’s climate alarmism/forced-energy-transformation crusade.

An October 2013 article by Jim Malwitz in The Texas Tribune, “$7 Billion Wind Power Project Nears Finish,” provides the details.

The subtitle read:

Developers expect to soon flip the switch on the final electrical transmission projects built under a nearly $7 billion effort to connect Texas’ windiest, mostly secluded regions to communities that demand more power.

The whole article follows:

With little fanfare, Texas is just weeks away from wrapping up a nearly $7 billion effort to add vast amounts of wind power to its energy grid.

By the end of December, developers expect to flip the switch on the final electrical transmission projects built under the state’s Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, or CREZ, initiative — the years’ long effort to connect windy, largely secluded West Texas to growing cities that demand more power.

Once finished, the build-out will stretch nearly 3,600 miles and will be able to send 18,500 megawatts of wind power across the state. That’s about 50 percent more capacity than is currently installed in Texas — the country’s leader in wind energy production — and more than three times as much as any other state.

“It’s a major milestone,” said Terry Hadley, a spokesman for the Public Utility Commission. He added that regulators will be on the lookout for any needed tweaks. Those changes could include adding equipment to decrease the energy lost over the longest-stretching lines.

Texas isn’t the only state looking to add more transmission for wind power, but other projects don’t match CREZ’s scope. Projects elsewhere — particularly those that stretch across state lines — have been slowed by a patchwork of sometimes conflicting federal and state regulations. Texas has avoided the biggest bureaucratic messes because most of its power lines stay within state borders. And the presence of one grid operator — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — in most of the state further simplifies the process.

That’s not to say planning for CREZ was a breeze. The routes, some of which proved controversial, were slowly mapped out in the PUC’s hearing room. Landowners in the Hill Country were among those who tried to prevent the lines from crossing their property. They succeeded in stopping one line and part of another after grid officials found it possible to upgrade existing infrastructure but serve the same purpose more cheaply.

The new transmission projects don’t run cheap. Texans will eventually shell out $6.8 billion to finance the entire build-out, according to a project update released this week by the PUC. Electric ratepayers will bear the burden, but few have yet seen their bills creep up. The commission has approved CREZ fees from just three transmission service companies, with other filings winding through the system.

The new fees, Hadley said, will likely add several dollars to a residential customer’s monthly bill.

The projects’ estimated price tag has changed little over the past two years, but it is far higher than the $4.93 billion projection made in 2008. Inflation drove some of that increase, while the projects’ changing shape was a bigger factor. In calculating the original estimate, researchers assumed the power lines would follow the most direct routes. As the process played out, however, regulators minimized intrusion by redrawing the routes to follow fences or roads. Those decisions added more than 600 miles of power lines that weren’t originally planned.

Jeff Clark, executive director of the Austin-based Wind Coalition, sees the big spend as well worth it. Texas’ wind portfolio is still growing, he points out, and the costs of wholesale wind energy is falling as technology improves and grid operators find more ways to integrate wind with natural gas.

Across the state, grid operators are reviewing some 21,000 megawatts worth of new wind projects. Typically, about 20 percent of proposals end up being built, said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for ERCOT. New projects in the Panhandle — including a planned 1,100-megawatt wind farm near Lubbock that promises to be the country’s largest — are expected to exceed the capacity of the region’s new transmission, meaning regulators may need to add even more lines in the future.

“When we look back on the investment in CREZ,” Clark said, “it will be one of the most visionary investments the state has ever made.”

Most every Texas ratepayer pays around $3–$5 per month (and will do so for a decade) for CREZ, a project that never would have been built if the wind developers themselves had to foot the bill.

Concentrated benefits – diffused costs strikes again in the political world.
Master Resource

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

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