LETTERS: If renewables are cheap, why is electricity so expensive?

The letter writing debate continues

To the Expositor:

The following comments are made in response to a letter submitted to this paper September 5, 2018 ‘Writer disputes validity of green energy costs sources.’

“If solar and wind are so cheap, why are they making electricity so expensive” is the title of a May 16, 2018 paper written by Michael Shellenberger. He is the founder and president of Environmental Progress, 2018 candidate for Governor of California, an environmental policy expert and winner of a 2008 Green Book Award.

He noticed that there is a lot of confusion in the media regarding the cost of renewable energy, and in spite of the hype that this particular source of energy enjoys in the press, it tends to drive up the cost of power.

He has had a look around the world where renewables have assumed significant portions of electrical generation. Here is a brief summary of the information: the full report with supporting information can be found online.

Electricity prices increased by: 51 percent in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy from 2006 to 2016; 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017; and over 100 percent in Denmark since 1995 when it began deploying renewables in earnest.

He then looked at other sources to see if costs moved in the same manner. Natural gas decreased by 50 percent to 70 percent and nuclear and coal remained flat.

Regarding nuclear power, the energy leaders in this area are Illinois, France, Sweden and South Korea. They enjoy some of the cheapest energy in the world. For example, France is 45 percent lower than Germany and Illinois is 42 percent lower than California.

Denmark and Germany have the first and second most expensive electricity in Europe.

These bits of information from Mr. Shellenberger would seem to support the contention that renewables are also the cause of high electrical energy costs here in Ontario and his summary falls in line with other sources. The issue is the unreliable nature of renewable energy. For every megawatt of installed wind generation for example, the same capacity must also be installed as reserve to be used when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Where natural gas is available, this is the preferred back-up. Where it is not, coal is used for spinning reserve and Germany is again a good example which is why, in spite of the push to renewables, CO2 emissions there are not declining. Another problem is the need to off-load when it is generated and not required. Typically, this results in selling at a loss as it is here in Ontario.

Mr. Shellenberger is certainly not on the right of the political spectrum but it seems that even he, on the left of the story can appreciate what is going on.

And now to Naomi Klein. When her book, ‘The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism’ was released, The Economist magazine published a series of reviews and I summarize a few of the reviews as follows:

“Probably the most effective brand of emotional nonfiction to be published this year. But when it comes to the underlying message, and the standards of evidence used to support it, “The Shock Doctrine” is a true economics disaster.”

(a comment from the same magazine from a few years prior) “Ms Klein’s harshest critics must allow that, for an angry adolescent, she writes rather well. It takes journalistic skill of a high order to write page after page of engaging blather, so totally devoid of substance. What a pity she has turned her talents as a writer to a cause that can only harm the people she claims to care most about.

And my favourite used in a previous submission to The Expositor. “Ms. Klein is to serious social thought what a dog is to dancing.”

It would seem that the critics of the book in question are not quite as enamored as her followers are with the work.

For someone to declare (fact based) that The Auditor General of Ontario has been lying to the people of Ontario is a mind-numbing bit of silliness that perhaps should be included and expanded for Ms. Klein’s next publication.

As for Milton Friedman, his legacy is secure as is his Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences awarded to him in 1976 for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy. The Fraser Institute is a source of information appreciated by many, probably because the organization understands the meaning of the words “fact” and “evidence.”

Shane Desjardins