Petition to Arizona legislature – Dump Renewable Energy Mandates

In 2006, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) imposed the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) on non-government owned electric utilities. I request that the Arizona legislature repeal this mandate and let utility companies generate electricity by the method they see as most efficient, cost effective, and reliable. Most renewable energy sources are none of these things.

REST requires that electric utilities generate an ever increasing amount of electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. The mandated goal is to reach a total of 15% renewable generation by the year 2025. The commissioners wanted “to capitalize on Arizona’s sunshine and other ‘green energy’ opportunities” according to an ACC press release. Currently, Arizona produces about 7% of its electricity from renewable resources but that figure counts the 6% from hydroelectric generation. We currently get less than 1% from so-called green energy sources. The integrity of our electrical grid will be in danger when 15% of our electricity is generated by unreliable sources such as wind and solar.

In addition to utility-owned projects, REST requires the utilities to produce a growing percentage of the total electricity from “distributed generation,” i.e., residential or non-utility owned installations. That means, for instance, solar panels on your roof or on the roof of your business or on shopping malls. The distributed energy requirement started at 5% of the total portfolio in 2007 and grew to 30% of the total renewable mix this year. We all pay for the subsidies associated with this requirement.

The rationale for REST is essentially political correctness embraced by some gullible Corporation Commissioners. The stated rationale is two -fold.

First, the commissioners want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But in the entire U.S., only about 1% of electricity is generated by burning petroleum. In Arizona, petroleum generates less than 0.1% of our electricity. Besides, America has abundant domestic sources of petroleum if only the feds would let us exploit it.

The other rationale is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and thus forestall dread global warming.

Six reasons why we should lay REST to rest:

1. Electricity generated from renewable sources is much more expensive than conventional generation. That expense is reflected in higher electricity bills. For instance, my bill from Tucson Electric Power itemizes an expense for “Renewable Energy Standard Tariff” and another charge for “DSM Surcharge.” (DSM is demand side management, more on that later). In 2011, TEP raised about $35 million from these charges. The ACC estimates that from 2010 to 2025, the surcharges for electricity from REST will cost consumers $1.2 billion more than they would have paid for conventional energy sources.

The cost of being politically correct is essentially a regressive tax which will cause low income households to shoulder a greater burden than higher income households because the energy costs make up a larger portion of their budget.

electricity by source and cost

2. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are intermittent, unpredictable, and unreliable. Increased generation from unreliable sources will make our electric grid more susceptible to blackouts and brownouts. Solar and wind generation typically produce at only about 20% of rated generation capacity. Tucson Electric Power operates one of the largest solar PV arrays in the United States, a 5-MW system. But during five years of operation it has produced at only 19% of it rated capacity. Even in Arizona, clouds cause rapid fluctuation in the array’s power output.

3. Because generation from renewable energy sources is intermittent and unpredictable, these sources require backup generation which is usually by burning fossil fuels. Because the time and duration for backup generation need is unpredictable, the fossil-fuel fired backup generators cannot be run efficiently. Experience in Europe shows that backup generators actually use more fuel and produce more carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants such as sulfur dioxide than they normally would if they were run efficiently for primary generation.

A new report from the European Nuclear Energy Agency analyzed the effects erratic intermittent source generation on the electric grid: The report considers “six technologies in detail: nuclear, coal, gas, onshore wind, offshore wind and solar. It finds that the so-called dispatchable technologies – coal, gas and nuclear – have system costs of less than $3 per MWh, while the system costs for renewables can reach up to $40 per MWh for onshore wind, $45 per MWh for offshore wind and $80 per MWh for solar. The costs for renewables vary depending on the country, technology and penetration levels, with higher system costs for greater penetration of renewables.”

4. Use of renewable energy will not impact climate. By using data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, NOAA, and the IPCC, it is possible to estimate the temperature impact of carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, if we stopped all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions it could theoretically prevent a temperature rise of 0.08ºC by 2050. If Arizona stopped all carbon dioxide emissions it could theoretically prevent a temperature rise of 0.0015ºC by 2050. Will you notice? (Data from Science & Public Policy Institute report “Analysis of US and State-by-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions & Potential ‘Savings’ in Future Global Temperature & Global Sea Level Rise

Besides, the increasing emissions from other countries such as China will completely wipe out any imagined savings from REST.

5. Wind turbines cause health problems due to low frequency vibrations. (See here)

In the United Kingdom a new study “claims thousands of people are falling sick because they live near” wind farms. Wind turbine syndrome is alleged to cause dizziness; increased blood pressure, sleeplessness, and depression among other things. All due to low-frequency vibrations. In December 2011, in a peer-reviewed report in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Dr. Carl Phillips, one of the U.S.’s most distinguished epidemiologists, concluded that there is “overwhelming evidence that wind turbines cause serious health problems in nearby residents, usually stress-disorder type diseases, at a nontrivial rate.”

6. Political philosophy: Who is in charge of public policy, state legislators as representatives of the people, or the Arizona Corporation Commission?

Rationing electricity:

Above, I mentioned DSM – demand side management. The REST program requires electric utilities reduce the amount they produce, i.e., ration electricity. “Arizona’s public utilities will be required to achieve annual energy savings of at least 22%, measured in kWh, by 2020, with the savings to increase incrementally as a percent of retail energy sales in each prior calendar year to reach that goal.” ( ACC Source).

One of the ways to achieve DSM is through use of the so-called “smart grid” and “smart meters.” Smart meters placed on your house or business will allow the electric company to monitor and control your electricity use via radio-controlled commands to your meter. If you use too much air-conditioning, for instance, the electric company will be able to turn it off.

Because these systems are radio controlled they are vulnerable to mischief by hackers who may decide to turn off the A/C in a shopping mall or neighborhood.

Renewable energy is not as green as advertized.

For example, many PV solar panels rely on polysilicon being manufactured in large quantities and at high quality. A byproduct of polysilicon production is silicon tetrachloride, a highly toxic substance that poses a major environmental hazard. Wherever silicon tetrachloride is dumped, the land becomes totally infertile. A major environmental cost of photovoltaic solar energy is toxic chemical pollution (arsenic, gallium, and cadmium) and energy consumption associated with the large-scale manufacture of photovoltaic panels.

A Cato report found that the materials required for thermal-solar projects were 1,000 times greater than for a similarly sized fossil-fuel facility, creating substantial incremental energy consumption and industrial pollution.

A wind farm uses about 85 times the area required by a gas-fired plant, about 10 to 80 acres per megawatt capacity. Solar requires about 10 acres per megawatt, still much larger than fossil fuel plants. This large footprint may impact wildlife.

Besides chopping up birds, a study from M.I.T. says wind turbines cause a rise in local temperatures of up to 1.8ºF because the turbines disrupt local air flow that can transport heat away from the land surface.

Conclusion:

My argument here is not against any use of renewable energy because there may be circumstances where such use is appropriate. My argument is against government mandated use which raises our electricity rates unnecessarily, distorts the market, and makes our electric grid less reliable.

Renewable energy mandates are bad for ratepayers, bad for the environment, and even bad for the state’s economy because of the increased electrical costs on business and the expense of government subsidies required by the mandate. The mandate fails to accomplish the stated rationale and is essentially just a politically correct eco-fad (with a little crony capitalism thrown in) that increases our electricity costs but provides no benefit. When the new Arizona legislature convenes in January, tell them to lay REST to rest. Dump the mandates.

UPDATE:

There is a new paper from the University of Delaware that claims “Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses…” The claim is based on computer modeling: garbage in, garbage out. Anthony Watts injects some reality to this nonsense: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/10/a-lol-press-release-on-renewable-energy-from-wishful-thinkers-at-the-university-of-delaware/#more-75558

UPDATE 2: Privacy concerns with smart meters, from National Geographic.
In theory, the information collected by smart meters could reveal how many people live in a home, their daily routines, changes in those routines, what types of electronic equipment are in the home, and other details. “It’s not hard to imagine a divorce lawyer subpoenaing this information, an insurance company interpreting the data in a way that allows it to penalize customers, or criminals intercepting the information to plan a burglary.

UPDATE 3: An executive of a solar company argues against mandates and subsidies for renewable energy. Read the whole article here.

“In reality, it [solar] is hopelessly inefficient from an economic sense to be a fix for our CO2 concerns.” “Subsidies are much worse that just wasteful, they’re diabolical. They lull us into thinking we have almost solved the problem and they hinder us from seeking the real solutions.”

Advertisements

11 comments

  1. 15% Renewables by 2025 is unrealistic, and a 22% cut in energy usage is insane and would devastate Arizona’s already fragile economy. Why the cuts when we need energy for economic growth and have abundant domestic supplies of cheap and efficient fuels? What on earth are these people thinking?

    Petition the legislature if you want, but I doubt that it will fly; the solar lobby is too powerful and previous efforts to repeal the mandate have failed. The newly elected legislature, with a slim republican majority, has become more liberal-democrat due to redistricting. And Governor Brewer would likely veto any efforts to overturn the mandate.

    Petition instead the Arizona Corporation Commission, which now includes two new conservative Commissioners (Burns and Smith) and is totally republican (greenies Kennedy and Newman were voted out). ACC will be considering huge rate hike requests from TEP and SWG, to cover costs of demand management and implementation of green energy mandates. They need to be told our utility rates are high enough already, and want NO MORE increases. Let them know that REST is stupid and unaffordable and should be cut back or rescinded.

  2. Yes, let’s not have energy made purely from the sun and wind. Instead we should keep burning things like cavemen. Cause that’s the way we’ve always done it…

    1. You’re a psych major from California and have no idea what you are talking about. You’re not able to add any useful insight to this discussion. You have a very low signal-to-noise ratio.

    2. What is it you don’t get about taking more energy and creating more pollution and chemical hazard in order to access your “clean” solar made “purely” from the sun? Have you bought any good bridges lately? If not, I think I got one I can sell you for a price you can’t refuse.

  3. The mandates don’t make economic or environmental sense. We all want to do the right thing for our future but the general public is woefully misinformed about solar’s viability and usefulness to address climate issues, so the solar lobby is in a strong position to pressure the ACC to plunder ratepayers for their selfish benefit. How does one stop it?

    1. The ACC will soon be considering a 15% base rate increase for TEP, to cover costs of mandates for green energy mandates and demand management. The newest elected commissioners campaigned on holding rates down. Hold their feet to the fire, call or write Brenda and Robert Burns and tell them no more rate increases.

  4. Let’s consider the environmental benefits of your green energy solutions. No form of energy is without environmental cost. Consider the enormous land surface requirements and visual blight from wind and solar; use of mined, energy intensive and toxic materials and associated pollution, noise and avian mortality from wind turbines, disruption of micro-environments and displacement of threatened species (such as the desert tortoise) from solar farms; creating an eco-dilemma for proponents of heavily-subsidized and costly “benign” energy sources. You are delusional in thinking that climate change can have man-made solutions.

    1. No name-calling, please. If you enjoy watching impact movies go see “The Global Warming Swindle”, based on real science and narrated by well-educated AGW skeptics. The truth shall set you free.

      1. If being set free involves a radical tree-hugging lefty needing to realize and confront an agenda or ideology change, they would prefer to stay bound and blinded rather than contemplate genuine change. This, always without regard to any factual data one presents. Facts are always inconvenient when agendas are sustained by bending facts to conform to their theories.

  5. Over-regulation motivated by environmental extremism and fashionable anti-capitalism is destroying our economy. It is naive to blame unbridled “free enterprise” capitalism, in a real world “mixed economy” dominated by big government and big business. Regulation has become an insidious form of crony capitalism where business obtains government intervention to further their own interests at the expense of consumers, taxpayers, and competitors; resulting in frankensteins like Solyndra and Government Motors.

    Climate change is the product of tribal group think and government control freaks on a quest to save the planet. Forced use of renewable energy is mandated theft, placing unfair burden on seniors and low income families. EPA’s war on coal benefits the interests of green energy, which is neither cheap nor green. Government attempts to regulate natural gas recovery are not science-based, but driven by fear and cronyism. If we are going to regulate, then do so evenhandedly, not by favoring one industry over another.

Comments are closed.