Comment: Another smear by Big Oil on wind power

Source: By Michael Goggin, The Hill • Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015

Koch-funded Kathleen Hartnett White’s Aug. 31 commentary on the Clean Power Plan ignores how low-cost wind energy helps states cost-effectively and reliably cut carbon pollution.

Unable to criticize American wind energy, among the lowest-cost and most productive in the world, White instead focuses on Germany. Her argument has little relevance as U.S. wind plants are nearly twice as productive as those in Germany, allowing the cost of wind in the U.S. to be a fraction of what it is in Europe.

U.S. and European electricity markets and policies are also very different. Germany sets a fixed price for renewables above the market price, and requires that wind power be used first on the power system. Neither of those applies in the U.S., which provides performance-based tax relief for private investment in wind energy.

Wind energy already helps states and utilities reduce carbon pollution, cutting 126 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, the equivalent emissions of 26 million cars.

Recent economic analysis by the Energy Information Administration shows wind energy playing the leading role in cost-effective compliance with the Clean Power Plan. Thanks to successful, performance-based tax policy and American innovation, wind energy’s costs have fallen by nearly two-thirds in just the last six years.

Wind energy also protects consumers and improves electric reliability by diversifying our energy mix.

High levels of wind output helped keep the lights on in many regions when conventional power sources unexpectedly failed during the polar vortex event in January 2014. This stably-priced wind energy saved consumers in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states $1 billion over two days alone during the polar vortex as the price of other fuels skyrocketed. Wind’s fixed fuel cost protects consumers over the longer-term as well; much like locking in a fixed-rate mortgage protects homeowners against interest rate volatility.

Wind energy already supplies Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas with more than 20 percent of their in-state electricity generation, and wind supplies nine states with more than 12 percent. At times wind plants have reliably supplied more than 40 percent of the electricity on the main Texas grid, and more than 60 percent on the main utility system in Colorado.

Far higher levels of renewable energy are being reliably integrated in Europe. Contrary to the incorrect claims in White’s opinion piece, European wind leaders have the most reliable power systems in the world, and they have only gotten more reliable as their use of wind energy has expanded. These countries have also seen massive reductions in carbon pollution and fossil fuel use, in direct proportion and lockstep as they have scaled up their use of clean energy.

A new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report, which updates a George W. Bush-era DOE report that reached the same conclusion, says wind energy can reliably and cost-effectively supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030.

This growth will keep our economy competitive too. Wind energy has already created a new industry in the U.S. with over 500 manufacturing facilities in 43 states. The Department of Energy report says wind can create 380,000 jobs by 2030 and over 600,000 jobs by 2050.

As states and utilities develop plans to comply with the Clean Power Plan they can confidently look to cost-effective wind energy as a win-win opportunity to cut pollution and benefit consumers.

Goggin is senior director of Research for the American Wind Energy Association.