Bluff & Bluster: US Wind Industry Furious Over Trump’s Promise to Slash Massive RE Subsidies

Way back in 1984, wind cultist Christopher Flavin’s told us that “in a few years’ time wind energy will not need to be subsidised.” 34 years on, the subsidies just keep on flowing and, without those subsidies, the so called wind ‘industry’ would disappear like a snowflake in summer.

No matter where they ply their trade, the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers will never be accused of running a consistent theme when it comes to wind power’s (supposed) ability to compete with conventional generation sources.

Whenever the political brains trust start challenging the true and hidden costs of wind power to their constituents, these boys start babbling about the wonders of wind being “free”; their “technology constantly improving”; their costs coming down all the time; and – in their more fantasy-filled moments – making the wildest claim of all: that wind power is already truly competitive with coal and gas fired generation (see our posts here and here).

That drivel lasts for just as long as it takes for the political conversation to turn to chopping the massive stream of subsidies directed by government mandate to wind power outfits. At which point, they sober up really fast – and start whining like spoilt brats about threats to investment and jobs (read their “own investments and their own jobs”).

Trump Again Seeks Deep Cuts in Renewable Energy Funding
Bloomberg
Ari Natter
7 March 2019

The Trump administration is again seeking severe cuts to the U.S. Energy Department division charged with renewable energy and energy efficiency research, according to a department official familiar with the plan.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its $2.3 billion budget slashed by about 70 percent, to $700 million, under President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, which is set to be released on Monday.

The request is unlikely to be granted by Congress, especially with Democrats in charge of the House, but the figure represents an opening bargaining position for negotiations by the White House.

The Energy Department declined to comment and the White House Office of Management and Budget didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“It’s a shutdown budget,” said Mike Carr, who served as the No. 2 official within the division under President Barack Obama. “That’s apparently what they want to signal to their base — they still want to shut these programs down.”

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in grants and other financial assistance for clean energy, has financed research into technologies ranging from electric vehicles to energy projects powered by ocean waves. It has been credited with financing research to help make the cost of wind power competitive with coal, and cutting the costs of LED lighting.

The Trump administration has tried to gut the program before, only to be rebuffed by Congress. Last year, the White House proposed cutting the agency’s funding by nearly two-thirds, but Congress instead provided $2.3 billion for the agency, more than three times the White House’s request.

“By pushing these ‘message budgets,’ they’re making sure that appropriators in both parties completely dismiss them,” said Jeff Navin, who served as acting chief of staff for Ernest Moniz, President Barack Obama’s energy secretary. “They’re so far out of the mainstream that they don’t actually influence the budget debate.”

In the past, Trump administration officials have defended the cuts, arguing they are justified by the falling costs of renewables and other emerging energy technologies.

In testimony before a House panel Thursday, Daniel Simmons, the Energy Department assistant secretary who heads the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said he couldn’t talk about the budget proposal. But he noted the division had recently completed funding announcements for research into hydrogen and batteries for heavy-duty trucks among other technologies.

Michigan Republican Representative Fred Upton told him at the hearing that lawmakers expects the office “to carry out the law as Congress intended and utilize the resources Congress provides.”

Meanwhile, conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have called for the office to be eliminated entirely, saying energy innovation is best left up to the private sector.

The budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy “is completely out control and even with the reduction it would still be one of the largest budgets in the Energy line,” said Tom Pyle, who led Trump’s Energy Department transition team and serves as president of the American Energy Alliance, a free-market advocacy group.
Bloomberg

Is wind power REALLY competitive with conventional generators?

Or is it just a perpetual infant, that would die a natural death in a heartbeat in the absence of massive subsidies filched from power consumers, under the threat of whopping fines that get levied against retailers that fail or refuse to play ball?

While that story will shift like the desert sands – and continue to be delivered with the all the persuasion of Little Britain’s vacillating Queen of Darkley Noone, Vicky Pollard, whenever she’s put on the spot – the one constant is that the “future” of the wind industry will be just as it always has been: one entirely wedded to corporate welfare on a mammoth scale.

Peel away a few layers of this little onion and all that’s left is a ‘business’ model wholly dependent upon mandates, renewable energy certificates, production tax credits and fines on retailers for refusing to tolerate the chaos delivered by wind and solar power.

In Australia, the direct and immediate cost of subsidies to wind and solar power outfits will exceed $60 billion over the life of the Federal government’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target. Largesse that has left Australia with among the highest retail power prices in the world (wind powered South Australia, tops the list).

No other industry in Australia’s history has enjoyed subsidies on that scale, ever. Hence the howl that erupts whenever the talk turns to turning off the tap. In the USA, the tale is no different.

Why Do Renewable Energy Sources Need Government Subsidies?
Manhattan Contrarian
Francis Menton
8 March 2019

If you read the progressive press, or even a little of it, with an interest in matters of energy policy, then surely you know by now that it has become cheaper to produce electricity using the wind and sun than using fossil fuels. You know that because you have read it over and over again, in authoritative articles written by, and quoting, people who seem to know what they are talking about, and with no one ever raising any skeptical questions.

Here are some of the articles that may be among what you have read on this subject:

  • There was the Financial Times on November 8, 2018, in a piece titled “New wind and solar generation costs fall below existing coal plants.” The Financial Times — now there are people who really know what they are talking about. The article mainly relies on a study then just out from investment bank Lazard, reporting on what is called the “Levelized Cost of Energy” for various sources of generation: “The cost of new wind and solar power generation has fallen below the cost of running existing coal-fired plants in many parts of the US . . . New estimates published on Thursday by Lazard, the investment bank, show that it can often be profitable for US generation companies to shut working coal plants and replace their output with wind and solar power.”
  • Or perhaps you read the piece from CBS News on November 16, mostly relying on the same Lazard study, and titled “It’s now cheaper to build a new wind farm than to keep a coal plant running.” “The cost of building a new utility-scale solar or wind farm has now dropped below the cost of operating an existing coal plant, according to an analysis by the investment bank Lazard. . . . ‘There are some scenarios, in some parts of the U.S., where it is cheaper to build and operate wind and solar than keep a coal plant running,’ said a Lazard banker who was involved in the report.”
  • Other widely-read pieces regurgitating the Lazard study can be found, for example, at Axios and Think Progress.
  • Nor is it by any means just that one Lazard study that is the source of the idea that wind and solar are now competitive or cheaper than generation from fossil fuels. For example, the official government research bureaucracy in Australia known as CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) came out with its own widely-read study in December 2018, reported (for example) by the Sydney Morning Herald on December 21 in a piece titled “Renewables to be cheaper than coal even without climate policy, CSIRO says.” “‘Our data confirms that while existing fossil fuel power plants are competitive due to their sunk capital costs, solar and wind generation technologies are currently the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity for Australia, compared to any other new-build technology,’ CSIRO chief energy economist Paul Graham said. ‘This also holds when the cost of fossil generation technology is adjusted for climate policy risk or not.’”
  • And then there was the November 2018 study from BloombergNEF (New Energy Finance), reported (for example) by Asian Power on November 21, 2018 in a piece headlined “Onshore wind and solar are now cheaper than coal: report.” “Unsubsidised onshore wind and solar have replaced coal as the cheapest power sources in almost all of the world’s major economies, including India and China, but excluding Japan, BloombergNEF revealed. The firm’s analysis of the levelised costs of electricity (LCOE) for H2 2018 showed that the benchmark global levelised cost for onshore wind sits at $52/MWh, down 6% from H1 2018. Moreover, onshore wind is now as cheap as $27/MWh in India and Texas, without subsidy. . . . In India, solar and wind plants are now half the cost of new coal plants, BNEF added.”

Obviously, this is great news. It’s great news because when wind and solar sources are the cheapest way to produce electricity, they don’t need any government subsidies, benefits, or tax breaks to compete with fossil fuel sources. If the reports above are true, then wind and solar can stand completely on their own.

The Trump administration seems to have picked up on the good news. In December 2018, Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow was quoted by something called the Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition as saying that the administration wants to end all subsidies and tax breaks for wind and solar generation and, for that matter, electric vehicles.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said yesterday that the White House wants to end subsidies for electric vehicles and other items, including renewable energy. “As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies,” Kudlow told reporters, according to Reuters. “And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth.”

Then, just yesterday it has come out that Trump’s forthcoming 2020 budget is going to include a proposed cut of 70% or so in the funding for something called the Energy Department Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This one little corner of federal energy largesse hands out some $2+ billion per year, mostly for “research” into renewable energy.

[An] official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its $2.3 billion budget slashed by about 70 percent, to $700 million, under President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, which is set to be released on Monday.

Is there any problem with that, now that wind and solar are already the cheapest sources of energy out there? And yet somehow, wind and solar promoters don’t seem to be happy with what’s going on. For example, that last Bloomberg piece quotes an ex-Obama Energy Department guy named Mike Carr:

It’s a shutdown budget,” said Mike Carr, who served as the No. 2 official within the division under President Barack Obama.

Or consider this in the reactions to the Kudlow quote above:

Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said it’s unclear what is being proposed and for when. “There is strong bipartisan support for the solar credits. We’ll wait to hear more specifics, but the ITC has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic activity,” Hopper said.

Abigail provides no explanation of why solar won’t provide the same “thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic activity” without any subsidies, now that it is the cheapest source.

Of course, readers here know that the claim that wind and solar are the cheapest sources of power are just based on the simple deception of leaving out the incremental costs — including costs of backup and/or storage — imposed by their random intermittency. Somehow, you can read dozens of these articles and never find any mention of that subject. If you are new here and want to study up, try previous posts here and here.
Manhattan Contrarian

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  2. The CSIRO remains adaptable to current “market” trends, just as it was during the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years.

  3. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    Way back in 1984, wind cultist Christopher Flavin’s told us that “in a few years’ time wind energy will not need to be subsidised.” 34 years on, the subsidies just keep on flowing and, without those subsidies, the so called wind ‘industry’ would disappear like a snowflake in summer.

    No matter where they ply their trade, the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers will never be accused of running a consistent theme when it comes to wind power’s (supposed) ability to compete with conventional generation sources.

    Whenever the political brains trust start challenging the true and hidden costs of wind power to their constituents, these boys start babbling about the wonders of wind being “free”; their “technology constantly improving”; their costs coming down all the time; and – in their more fantasy-filled moments – making the wildest claim of all: that wind power is already truly competitive with coal and gas fired generation (see our posts here and here).

    That drivel lasts for just as long as it takes for the political conversation to turn to chopping the massive stream of subsidies directed by government mandate to wind power outfits. At which point, they sober up really fast – and start whining like spoilt brats about threats to investment and jobs (read their “own investments and their own jobs”).

  4. Craig Lucanus says:

    The CSIRO report says renewables plus storage is as cheap as coal right now. I found the much of the reasoning unintelligible and unrealistic, such as how little storage is required and PHES situated at the generation site:
    http://www.csiro.au/~/media/News-releases/2018/Annual-update-finds-renewables-are-cheapest-new-build-power/GenCost2018.pdf

    • More partisan nonsense from CSIRO, based on wild assumptions and woolly logic. If it was correct, we would see wind, solar plus storage dominate the market, without subsidies. They don’t, which says it all.

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