Here’s a cold, hard fact: increased reliance on renewable energy raises costs and lowers availability when we need it most. That’s what I said in 2014 when the Obama administration rolled out the Clean Power Plan, and in light of the proposed Green New Deal, it still rings true today.
Proponents of today’s self-titled green revolution have lost track of pragmatic solutions. They ignore a harsh reality: wind and solar are inherently sporadic. In addition, both forms of energy are reliant on battery technology that does not exist yet, and we do not expect it to anytime soon. Additionally, I am unaware of enough electricity consumers willing to forgo service for the day or even week when the wind refuses to blow, the temperature plummets, or clouds hang low. Some say new transcontinental transmission lines are another possible solution, especially considering large population areas like the East Coast have relatively minimal solar and wind resources to harness.
Yet none of them seem interested in the expansion of eminent domain to achieve this. Meanwhile, consumers are already experiencing drastically increasing transmission costs. Look no further than the American Public Power Association, which recently passed a resolution urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to control transmission cost increases being passed onto their members.
Here is an even more chilling reality: Windmills shut down at -20 degrees Fahrenheit and actually start consuming energy. Anyone who followed what happened in North Dakota and the upper Midwest this year knows -20 is far from rare, and it’s when people need reliable energy most. This year, substantial wind power generation dropped approximately 80 percent in a matter of hours, a scenario grid operators are learning to adapt to as the aforementioned renewables make their job incredibly more complex.
Only this time, given these automatic wind tower shut downs, their day-ahead wind forecast was missed significantly, triggering an all-hands-on-deck situation. During this same cold snap, natural gas providers called on customers to reduce their thermostats to 63 degrees or lower. To accommodate this request, many turn to space heaters, which use more electricity. A simultaneous electric outage during this time would have been disastrous.
This is the type of scenario that concerns me as we increasingly rely on renewables and natural gas to generate electricity. However, the future can be bright if we truly embrace an all-of-the-above approach.
We need the baseload capable power from coal and nuclear energy if we are going to build resilient and reliable energy grids. In contrast to what some say, clean coal does exist and the responsible use of nuclear energy is proven. Carbon sequestration technology is waiting for us to realize its full potential. We must foster an economy and culture that incentivizes our nation’s innovators, engineers, and scientists. If these recent polar vortexes and cold winters taught us anything, it is that we must have a well-rounded energy policy that encourages the best ideas. As I stated before, -20 degrees is not rare back home. I hope we never become so lopsided that my friends, neighbors and family are unable to turn on the heat when they need it most.