One year ago Bacon’s Rebellion mentioned Dominion Power’s plan to “meet Virginia’s goal of 12 percent of base-year electricity sales from renewable energy sources by 2022.” It was a laudable goal, and today the nation’s Secretary of the Interior is out on the stump pushing for off-shore wind farms, including off Virginia’s shores. In the mean time, efforts to put windmills across the tops of mountains in Highland County continue, if only at a glacial pace. Finally, the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change recognized the Renewable Portfolio Standard goal of 15 percent by 2025 – although they refused to increase the goal to 25 percent.
On top of this Virginia commitment, the President plans to “generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity by 2030,” from renewable sources.
We continue to applaud the goal, but perhaps it is time to seriously consider just how real all this reliance on wind and other “renewables” actually is.
Last week, Drew Thornley at Investors Business Daily opined that “Given the sweeping nature of the White House’s proposals, it is worrisome that much of the Obama administration’s agenda is based more on myth than in fact, more on hope than in reality.” Citing the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Thornley reminds us that 91 percent of our electricity is generated by fossil fuel and uranium, and the EIA projects that 85 percent of our electricity in 2030 will be generated by such fuel.
In reviewing the history of renewables, I think the EIA is more likely to be a right than the President. As the Institute for Energy Research (IER) reminds us, “for decades, representatives and advocates of wind and solar have claimed that their technology was near a competitive tipping point-but just needed a bit more subsidies, set-asides, and government aid to succeed. But even after 30 years of massive subsidies, wind and solar continue to be more expensive and contribute only a small amount of electricity. According to the EIA, in 2008, wind produced 1.3 percent of the electrical generation in America and solar produced a meager 0.02 percent.”
Consider the following predictions the IER has chronicled:
- In 1983, Booz, Allen & Hamilton did a study for the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association, and Renewable Energy Institute. It stated: “The private sector can be expected to develop improved solar and wind technologies which will begin to become competitive and self-supporting on a national level by the end of the decade [i.e. by 1990] if assisted by tax credits and augmented by federally sponsored R&D.”
- In 1986, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute lamented the untimely scale-back of tax breaks for renewable energy, since the competitive viability of wind and solar technologies was “one to three years away.”
- In 1990, two energy analysts at the Worldwatch Institute predicted an almost complete displacement of fossil fuels in the electric generation market within a couple decades [i.e. 2010]:
“Within a few decades, a geographically diverse country such as the United States might get 30 percent of its electricity from sunshine, 20 percent from hydropower, 20 percent from wind power, 10 percent from biomass, 10 percent from geothermal energy, and 10 percent from natural-gas-fired cogeneration.
- In 1986, a representative of the American Wind Energy Association testified:
“The U.S. wind industry has … demonstrated reliability and performance levels that make them very competitive. It has come to the point that the California Energy Commission has predicted windpower will be that State’s lowest cost source of energy in the 1990s, beating out even large-scale hydro.
- Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute has been predicting competitive viability since the 1980s. In 1984 he wrote:
Tax credits have been essential to the economic viability of wind farms so far, but will not be needed within a few years.
In 1985, he wrote:
“Although wind farms still depend on tax credits, they are likely to be economical without this support within a few years.”
In 1986, he wrote:
“Early evidence indicates that wind power will soon take its place as a decentralized power source that is economical in many areas…. Utility-sponsored studies show that the better windfarms can produce power at a cost of about 7¢ per kilowatt-hour, which is competitive with conventional power sources in the United States.”
All these things considered, perhaps it’s time to drill here and drill now.