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[cdn-nucl-l] Canada, National Post, Wind power is a complete disaster
Interesting article. In late February, wind power had an 83% social
acceptance in Canada.
The Ontario government is building gas-fired power plants to keep the lights
on when the wind stops.
Wind power is a complete disaster
Michael J. Trebilcock, Financial Post
Published: Thursday, April 09, 2009
There is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a
significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is
instructive. Denmark, the world's most wind-intensive nation, with more than
6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single
fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover
wind power's unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions
have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).
Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company
ELSAM (one of Denmark's largest energy utilities) tells us that "wind
turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions." The German experience is
no different. Der Spiegel reports that "Germany's CO2 emissions haven't been
reduced by even a single gram," and additional coal-and gas-fired plants
have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.
Indeed, recent academic research shows that wind power may actually increase
greenhouse gas emissions in some cases, depending on the carbon-intensity of
back-up generation required because of its intermittent character. On the
negative side of the environmental ledger are adverse impacts of industrial
wind turbines on birdlife and other forms of wildlife, farm animals,
wetlands and viewsheds.
Industrial wind power is not a viable economic alternative to other energy
conservation options. Again, the Danish experience is instructive. Its
electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to
Ontario's current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of
Industries says, "windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense."
Aase Madsen , the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it
"a terribly expensive disaster."
The U. S. Energy Information Administration reported in 2008, on a dollar
per MWh basis, the U. S. government subsidizes wind at $23.34 -- compared to
reliable energy sources: natural gas at 25¢; coal at 44¢; hydro at 67¢; and
nuclear at $1.59, leading to what some U. S. commentators call "a huge
corporate welfare feeding frenzy." The Wall Street Journal advises that
"wind generation is the prime example of what can go wrong when the
government decides to pick winners."
The Economist magazine notes in a recent editorial, "Wasting Money on
Climate Change," that each tonne of emissions avoided due to subsidies to
renewable energy such as wind power would cost somewhere between $69 and
$137, whereas under a cap-and-trade scheme the price would be less than $15.
Either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system creates incentives for
consumers and producers on a myriad of margins to reduce energy use and
emissions that, as these numbers show, completely overwhelm subsidies to
renewables in terms of cost effectiveness.
The Ontario Power Authority advises that wind producers will be paid 13.5¢/
kwh (more than twice what consumers are currently paying), even without
accounting for the additional costs of interconnection, transmission and
backup generation. As the European experience confirms, this will inevitably
lead to a dramatic increase in electricity costs with consequent detrimental
effects on business and employment. From this perspective, the government's
promise of 55,000 new jobs is a cruel delusion.
A recent detailed analysis (focusing mainly on Spain) finds that for every
job created by state-funded support of renewables, particularly wind energy,
2.2 jobs are lost. Each wind industry job created cost almost $2-million in
subsidies. Why will the Ontario experience be different?
In debates over climate change, and in particular subsidies to renewable
energy, there are two kinds of green. First there are some environmental
greens who view the problem as so urgent that all measures that may have
some impact on greenhouse gas emissions, whatever their cost or their impact
on the economy and employment, should be undertaken immediately.
Then there are the fiscal greens, who, being cool to carbon taxes and
cap-and-trade systems that make polluters pay, favour massive public
subsidies to themselves for renewable energy projects, whatever their
relative impact on greenhouse gas emissions. These two groups are motivated
by different kinds of green. The only point of convergence between them is
their support for massive subsidies to renewable energy (such as wind
This unholy alliance of these two kinds of greens (doomsdayers and rent
seekers) makes for very effective, if opportunistic, politics (as reflected
in the Ontario government's Green Energy Act), just as it makes for lousy
public policy: Politicians attempt to pick winners at our expense in a
fast-moving technological landscape, instead of creating a socially
efficient set of incentives to which we can all respond.
-Michael J. Trebilcock is Professor of Law and Economics, University of
Toronto. These comments were excerpted from a submission last night to the
Ontario government's legislative committee On Bill 150.