Renewables Losing Support Worldwide
by Jack Dini
Twenty fifteen may go down in the books as the year support for renewable energy died. Policy adjustments—whether for electricity generation or transportation fuels—are in the works on both the state and federal levels reports Marita Noon. (1)
About a decade ago, when more than half of the states enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), a number of states agreed to voluntary targets. Now, nearly one-third of those states are reconsidering legislation that sounded so good in a different energy era. Back then it was widely believed that there was an energy shortage and 'dealing with global warming' was a higher priority. (1)
Most states RPS laws require that between 10% and 25% of electricity comes from renewables. The figure is higher in some states. In New York the mandate is 30% by the end of this year, and in California it is 33% by the end of the decade. These laws were in vogue from the late 1990s to the late 2000s as lawmakers sought to demonstrate their green credentials. (2)
A June study by the Institute for Energy Research shows that electricity generated from new wind farms is between two and four times more expensive than electricity from existing coal, natural gas and nuclear plants. Compared with fossil- fuels plants, electricity form new wind farms is between 15% and 54% more expensive. As for solar, data show it will continue to be significantly more expensive than competitors for at least the rest of the decade, and likely far beyond. Nationally, federal data from the Energy Information Administration show that electricity, on average, 22.9% more costly where RPS mandates are in effect. (2)
Any wonder why RPS mandates are in the process of taking hits?
Earlier this year West Virginia became the first state to repeal its RPS. (1)
In March the Texas senate voted to end its RPS and another program that helped fuel the state's years-long surge in wind energy production. While Texas is known for its leadership in wind energy, the termination of RPS will impact the solar industry as well. (1)
In May, Kansas effectively repealed its RPS—which required 20% renewable electricity by 2020—making the new target voluntary.
North Carolina is on track to freeze its RPS law this year. The house has passed two bills that would hold the mandate at 6% renewables and prevent it from rising to 12.5% by 2012 as originally planned. (2)
In 2014 Ohio froze its RPS law at 2.5% for two years, pushing the final target of 12.5% back to 2026.
Coming up, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan, New Mexico and Louisiana are all seriously looking at repealing or revising their RPS. (1)
We Are Not Alone
Australia has slammed the door shut on any new government funded investment in renewable energy schemes. The government has ordered the taxpayer-funded $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation to immediately cease any new investments in wind power. The funding ban is just the latest salvo in the government's attracks on the renewable energy sector which also includes small-scale solar projects.(3)
In the UK, subsidies for new wind farms and solar power plants are set to be cut as ministers move to protect millions of families from rising energy bills. (4)
In the first quarter of 2013, Spain saw almost all of its investments in renewable energies evaporate, plummeting a mind-numbing 96%. (5)
Germany's renewable energy bubble has collapsed since the government rolled back subsidies for a variety of green energy sources such as solar and biogas in 2014, especially for solar. (6)
After more than 20 years of highly subsidized development, new renewables such as wind and solar and modern biofuels such as corn ethanol have claimed only 3.35 percent of the US energy supply.
All of this should not be surprising, in fact, it should be expected. As Vaclav Smil notes, “In the US and around the world, each wide-spread transition from one dominant fuel to another has taken 50 to 60 years.” (7) These new technologies will eventually become effective, but it will be a long time before it happens. Clearly, we expected too much too soon.
1. Marita Noon, “Cancel our renewables,” spectator.org., April 30, 2015
2. Donald Bryson and Jeff Glendening, “States are unplugging their renewable-energy mandates,” The Wall Street Journal, July 11-12, 2015
3. Simon Kent, “Aussie PM Tony Abbott cancels all government wind farm subsidies,” breitbart.com, July 12, 2015
4. Tim Ross, “Green energy subsidies facing the axe,” telegraph.co.uk, July 19, 2015
5. P. Gosselin, “Renewable energy investment in Obama's once ballyhooed Spain evaporates- plummeting 96%,” notrickszone.com, April 16, 2013
6. P Gosselin, “Solar bubble...New solar installations reach low in Germany,” notrickszone.com, April 22, 2015
7. Valcav Smil, “The long slow rise of solar and wind,” Scientific American, 310, 52, January 2014