• DECEMBER 20, 2010

The Wind Subsidy Bubble

Green pork should be a GOP budget target.

Ethanol isn't the only heavily subsidized energy source that won a multibillion dollar jackpot in last week's tax deal. The other big winner was the wind industry, which received a one year extension of a $3 billion grant program for renewable energy projects.

Talk about throwing good money after bad. Despite more than $30 billion in subsidies for "clean energy" in the 2009 stimulus bill, Big Wind still can't make it in the marketplace. Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, had warned that without last week's extension of the federal 1603 investment credit, the outlook for the wind industry would be "flatline or down." Some 20,000 wind energy jobs, about one-quarter of the industry's total, could have been lost, the wind lobby concedes. For most industries that would be an admission of failure, but in Washington this kind of forecast is used to justify more subsidies.

But what have these subsidies bought taxpayers? According to AWEA, in the first half of 2010 wind power installations "dropped by 57% and 71% from 2008 and 2009 levels." In the third quarter, the industry says it "added just 395 megawatts (MW) of wind-powered electric generating capacity," making it the lowest quarter since 2007. New wind installations are down 72% from last year to their lowest level since 2006. And this is supposed to be the miracle electricity source of the future?

The coal industry, which Mr. Obama's Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department have done everything possible to curtail, added almost three times more to the nation's electric power capacity in the first nine months of 2010 (39%) than did wind (14%), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The grant program that Congress has extended was created in the 2008 stimulus bill. It forces taxpayers to pay 30% of a renewable energy project's costs. Big Wind insisted on these grants because wind energy producers don't make enough net income to take advantage of the generous renewable energy tax credit.

The industry also wants a federal renewable energy standard, which would require utilities to buy power from green energy projects regardless of price. Without that additional subsidy, AWEA concedes that wind power will "stall out." It is lobbying for billions of dollars of subsidies to cover the cost of hooking off-shore wind projects to the electricity transmission grid. And now that the cap-and-tax scheme on coal and oil and gas has failed in Congress, the windmillers want the EPA to use regulation to raise costs on carbon sources of power.

Big Wind also has lobbying operations in state capitals, where it has been pushing state renewable energy standards. More than half the states—mostly in the West and Northeast—have enacted these mandates, which are already inflating home and business electricity bills.

According to an analysis by Chris Horner, an energy expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the stimulus bill's subsidies for renewable energy cost taxpayers about $475,000 for every job generated. That's at least four times what it costs a nonsubsidized private firm to create a job—a lousy return on investment even for government.

The wind industry claims to employ 85,000 Americans. That's almost certainly an exaggeration, but if it is true it compares with roughly 140,000 miners and others directly employed by the coal industry. Wind accounts for a little more than 1% of electricity generation and coal almost 50%. So it takes at least 25 times more workers to produce a kilowatt of electricity from wind as from coal.

Given this level of inefficiency, it's no wonder that wind and solar energy require at least 20 times more in government subsidies per unit of electricity generated than the average for coal and natural gas, according to a 2007 study by the Energy Information Administration.

The wind industry gave the vast majority of its campaign contributions this election cycle to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democrats. If Republicans are serious about shrinking the federal budget and ending corporate welfare, a very good target would be green pork, starting with wind.

 

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A22

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703395204576023820064...
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Comment by Harrison Roper on December 23, 2010 at 12:43pm
Frank John - e-mail Michele Reaux at  eqr@FERC.gov and whe will tell you the address. I mn ot very good at "doing links" What you want are "quarterly reports" Harry Roper
Comment by Harrison Roper on December 22, 2010 at 2:33pm

Long Islander has it just right.  The FERC website reports that First Wind's Stetson wind farm (which is listed as "Evergreen Wind Power V, LLC"  on the website) produced and sold just 14.5% of its "installed capacity" in the third quarter of 2010.  This is a dismal record.

 I, too, am hoping the "Tea Party"people (and the Republicans) will target subsidies for inland industrial wind as a prime example of Federal waste and inepitude.  I will remember it as "Baldacci's Folly".

Harrison Roper Houlton/Danforth

Comment by Mary Beth Nolette on December 20, 2010 at 2:16pm

Long Islander,

Good to see that you can't totally leave us ;)

Great article! I think we are finally getting some traction in terms of the economic impacts. Health effects is going a little more slowly, but I think I am starting to see a subtle shift in some attitudes.

This new stimulus money is such a waste when thrown at big wind. It would have been so much better spent somewhere else.

 

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

******** IF LINKS BELOW DON'T WORK, GOOGLE THEM*********

(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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