Killer solar panels and the sobering reality of “green” energy

September 21, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

More solar panels and wind turbines are not solutions to the eco-left’s obsession with global carbon emission according to a new book from University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner titled Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism.

Zehner said in an interview with the Huffington Post,

‘Alternative energy is not a free ride, just a different ride…and there’s no reason to believe it will offset fossil fuel use in a society that has high levels of consumption and is growing exponentially.’

Put another way, renewable energy only makes sense if undertaken in concert with other, more fundamental changes in the way we deploy and make use of energy in our everyday lives. At the moment, we’re really paying attention to the technology end of things, Zehner argues, and without a holistic approach, these innovations get us nowhere.

Zehner wants people to consume less. But there is more to his book than conservation. He argues that some green technology is actually worse than traditional fossil fuels that simply dump CO2 into the atmosphere

Green Illusions explains how the solar industry has grown to become one of the leading emitters of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These three potent greenhouse gases, used by solar cell fabricators, make carbon dioxide (CO2) seem harmless.

The main point is that “green energy” comes with a price, both economical and environmental. Go into it with your eyes wide open.

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CO Green dream proves nightmare for taxpayers

July 3, 2012 by admin · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

GIGAOM reports that, as of last week, General Electric is putting on hold its plan to be a major solar panel manufacturer in Colorado. According to the self-described emerging technology blog GIGAOM:

General Electric was set to become a major solar manufacturer when it announced a 400 MW factory in Colorado last year. Over a year later, though, it’s putting that plan on hold for 18 months or more while it works on coming up with a more competitive technology, Danielle Merfeld, general manger of solar technology at GE, told us on Tuesday.

It was only last month when a company spokeswoman told me by email that GE was still building its factory and hoping to start production in 2013. But the company reconsidered that plan in recent weeks after seeing solar prices tumbled significantly for over a year, and it stopped the factory building activities last week, Merfeld said.

When GE announced it was getting into the solar panel manufacturing business, several states chased after GE’s $300 million project and the promise of 355 green jobs with an average salary of $50,000. Colorado, specifically Aurora, landed the project after granting $28 million in state and local tax incentives. A glowing Denver Post house editorial from October 2011, called it a “coup,” explaining that “a growing green-energy sector in Colorado is a plus as the nation continues to confront issues of climate change and energy independence.”

Sounding like a broken record (for those who still remember vinyl), but we saw this coming in November 2011 when we predicted dark days ahead for solar manufacturers following layoffs from a Detroit based manufacturer .

A local news outlet, WOOD-TV, had the money quote:  ”supply for solar products worldwide is more than double the demand, so there is no need to make more.”

This is bad news for Colorado because taxpayers just threw a bunch of incentives at General Electric to locate a solar panel manufacturing plant in the state. Colorado already has several solar panel manufacturers including Abound Solar, Ascent Solar, and PrimeStar.

While losing a competitor might be good for the remaining manufacturers, an over-saturated market means more dark days on the horizon for solar panel manufacturers and thus for taxpayers.

Since November 2011, Abound has declared bankruptcy, GE has pulled the plug on the PrimeStar project, and Ascent has moved away from panels and into new consumer solar products such as cell phone chargers.

Former Governor Bill Ritter’s green dream for Colorado is turning into a nightmare for taxpayers. The question remains how long can Ritter sustain his own $300,000 job as the green ambassador for Colorado’s New Energy Economy, which appears to be the only real job “created.”

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Flashback: Drunk on Sunshine

June 28, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

A mere seven months ago, the Denver Business Journal quoted Abound Solar President and CEO Craig Witsoe bragging that his thin-filmed cadmium telluride solar panel manufacturing company was the “anti-Solyndra,” referring to the scandalous and abrupt bankruptcy of the California-based thin-filmed manufacturer that saw the FBI raid its luxurious taxpayer-supported headquarters.

Cathy Proctor of the DBJ further reported that Abound was “doing well and growing,” according to Witsoe. Proctor also quoted solar industry experts who said Abound had “a good chance of competing in the market” assuming it could lower the cost of its panels.

And Eric Wesoff of GreenTech Media reiterated the Abound as the anti-Solyndra theme, “They’re not Solyndra. Solyndra spent money like a drunken sailor, and it doesn’t seem like Abound is doing that.”

With today’s bankruptcy announcement, Abound turns out to be nothing more than another failed solar manufacturer that got drunk on the promise of sunshine and easy (taxpayer) money.

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CO Solyndra: Pat Stryker’s Abound Solar Goes Bankrupt

June 28, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Pat Stryker’s Abound Solar “will close its doors and file for bankruptcy” next week according to the Department of Energy (DOE) blog. Because the bankruptcy means roughly $70 million in lost taxpayer money, we take no joy in saying that “we told you so.” Back on January 11, 2012, we wrote:

Unfortunately for taxpayers who provided a $400 million loan guarantee for Abound, 2012 may be the year that the sun sets on Pat Stryker’s pet project.

Apparently taxpayers have been venture capitalists invested in Abound Solar since 2007, well before the controversial $400 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan:

In 2007, the Department awarded the company a grant to support a pilot project to demonstrate the viability of its manufacturing process.  In December 2010, the Department issued a loan guarantee to support the construction of two commercial scale plants: one in Longmont, Colorado and a second new facility in Tipton, Indiana.

Perhaps Abound should have heeded Ronald Reagan’s warning when he said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” John Keyes, founder of the first commercial solar energy corporation, knows this first hand. He explained in an interview that the worst thing to happen to the industry he loves was government involvement which began in the Carter Administration.

Rob Douglas wrote on WatchDog.org that the bureaucratic red tape involved with DOE loans ends up hamstringing businesses like Abound:

For example, the $400 million loan-guarantee agreement between Colorado-based Abound Solar and the DOE reveals that Abound Solar — and, it is safe to assume, all loan-guarantee recipients — had to comply with a staggering range of federal laws and regulations, including, but not limited to:

  • The Recovery Act;
  • The Davis-Bacon Act; Office of Management and Budget regulations;
  • Environmental laws (including those involving “air emissions, discharges to surface water or ground water, noise emissions, solid or liquid waste disposal, the use, generation, storage, transportation or disposal of toxic or Hazardous Substances or wastes, or other environmental health or safety matters”);
  • The Investment Company Act;
  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act;
  • Buy American regulations;
  • Lobbying laws;
  • Foreign asset control laws;
  • Prohibited person laws;
  • Prohibited jurisdiction laws;
  • Corrupt practices laws;
  • The Anti-Terrorism Order.

Scratch the surface of any one of the above categories and you find requirements like this one, in the OMB compliance section:

“OMB shall have certified in writing (in form and substance satisfactory to DOE) that the DOE Credit Facility Documents and the Project comply with the provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, P.L. No. 111-8, Division C, Title III, as amended by Section 408 of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009, P.L. No. 111-32.”

Keep in mind that’s just one provision in more than 100 pages of detailed requirements that span the breadth and depth of federal laws and regulations. And in case the loan guarantee agreement by the DOE is not suffocating enough, the following legal, financial and regulatory blanket — as revealed in the Abound Solar documents — is placed atop the specific, enumerated rules and regulations loan-guarantee recipients are required to obey:

“All provisions of this term sheet are subject to the following (the “Program Requirements”): (i) the provisions of Title XVII, all applicable provisions of the Recovery Act, and the Applicable Provisions, (ii) all DOE or Federal Financing Bank (“FFB”) legal and financial requirements, policies, and procedures applicable to the Title XVII program from time to time, and (iii) the Office of Management and Budget’s Initial Implementing Guidance for the Recovery Act, M-09-10 (February 18,2009), Updated Implementing Guidance for the Recovery Act, M-09-15 (April 3, 2009), Updated Implementing Guidance for the Recovery Act, M-09-21 (June 22, 2009) and, in each case, any amendment, supplement or successor thereto (collectively referred to herein, the “OMB Implementing Guidance”).”

The Abound Solar loan-guarantee documents suggest that a newborn company, which lays down with the DOE, runs the risk of being smothered by the federal leviathan before ever bringing a product to market.

Not surprisingly, the DOE doesn’t take any responsibility for smothering the newborn. Instead, it blames China and then claims the answer is MORE taxpayer money. That might explain its cavalier attitude about losing taxpayer money:

While disappointing, this outcome reflects the basic fact that investing in innovative companies – as Congress intended the Department to do when it established the program – carries some risk.

Of course, there really isn’t much “risk” when using someone else’s money.

Complete Colorado’s Todd Shepherd reported, that Abound’s DOE loan guarantee had the appearance of more than just an investment in an upstart solar company. It looked a little more like political payback in a classic pay-to-play scheme. The billionaire heiress Pat Stryker could have financed the entire project herself, but instead used her political connections to put taxpayers on the hook.

For its part, in an online press release, Abound says it’s “appreciative of the significant investment from private investors and the U.S. Department of Energy.” Abound should be “appreciative” toward taxpayers who footed much of the bill for Styker’s and President Obama’s green fantasy.

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Ugly numbers for Xcel ratepayers

May 31, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Lobbying at the state capitol:

According to January-April 2012 disclosure forms available on the Secretary of State’s Web site, Xcel Energy paid $126,393.90 for seven lobbyists at the state capitol. This included two lobbying firms and three Xcel in-house lobbyists.  The highest paid was 5280 Strategies run by Mike Beasley, well-known Capital Hill insider and former staffer for Governor Bill Owens.

Jan-12

Feb-12

Mar-12

Apr-12

5280 Strategies

$13,250.00

$13,250.00

$13,250.00

$13,250.00

$53,000.00

JLH Consulting

$8,333.37

$8,333.37

$8,333.37

$8,333.33

$33,333.44

Daniel Pfeiffer

$2,643.00

$5,485.80

$2,247.06

$2,247.00

$12,622.86

Michelle Stermer

$2,856.40

$3,858.96

$4,042.72

$4,042.00

$14,800.08

Ethnie Treick

$2,597.00

$3,635.52

$2,597.00

$3,808.00

$12,637.52

Total

$29,679.77

$34,563.65

$30,470.15

$31,680.33

$126,393.90

Some of the ratepayer-friendly bills Xcel successfully lobbied to kill in 2012 include:

In contrast, the Colorado Education Association spent a mere $45,384.80 on four lobbyists during the same period.

Jan-12

Feb-12

Mar-12

Apr-12

Garromone Mason

$4,014.87

$4,014.87

$4,014.87

$4,014.87

$16,059.48

Anthony Salazar

$500.00

$500.00

$500.00

$500.00

$2,000.00

Julie Whitacre

$3,615.00

$3,615.00

$3,615.00

$3,615.00

$14,460.00

Karen Wick

$3,216.33

$3,216.33

$3,216.33

$3,216.33

$12,865.32

Total

$11,346.20

$11,346.20

$11,346.20

$11,346.20

$45,384.80

Xcel Energy spends even more on lobbying in its home state of Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Xcel shelled out a whopping $2.43 million for 39 lobbyists in 2011 alone, making it the champion of lobbyist spending.

Xcel “the Corporate Tax Dodger”:

Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released their list of “Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010.” The left-leaning organizations describe their report:

This study takes a hard look at the federal income taxes paid or not paid by 280 of America’s largest and most profitable corporations in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The companies in our report are all from Fortune’s annual list of America’s 500 largest corporations, and all of them were profitable in each of the three years analyzed. Over the three years, the 280 companies in our survey reported total pretax U.S. profits of $1.4 trillion.

  • In 2009, Xcel’s profit was $1.048 billion, with a tax rate of -3.8 percent.
  • Between 2005-2009, the tax rate for Colorado’s largest investor owned utility was 1.78 percent.

Furthermore, In an article titled “Lobbyists help lower corporate tax rates for companies investing in alternative energy” the Sunlight Foundation reported last year that Xcel was one of several energy companies that spent millions on lobbying for lower tax rates at the federal level:

Taxes have been a focal lobbying point for many of these companies…Two of them—NextEra Energy and Xcel Energy—reported spending millions on lobbying while listing taxes on their disclosures more than any other issue in 2010. Xcel reportedly paid a 1.78 percent tax rate over the 2005-2009 period.

The teams assembled by NextEra and Xcel included lobbyists with years of tax experience, often on the appropriate congressional committees or in the executive branch. They include a former member of the Ways and Means Committee, a former tax counsel for the Ways and Means Committee, a former political advisor to Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, and a former tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, six out of the fifteen outside lobbying firms hired by NextEra and Xcel listed energy tax provisions as the sole issue they lobbied on. Six other firms lobbied on a mix of issues including taxes.

Additional Numbers:

  • In 2008, former Xcel CEO Richard Kelly received $5.1 million in total compensation. In 2010, Kelly received $11.3 million, an increase of more than 120 percent.
  • Ben Fowke replaced Kelly who retired last year. Bloomberg Businessweek reports Fowke’s total compensation for 2011 was $9,676,420.
  • Over the last several years, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved Xcel rate increases of roughly 20 percent on Colorado consumers, with another 20 percent in increases expected within the next several years as well. Most recently the PUC approved a $114 million rate increase.
  • In his “Letter to Shareholders” in the 2011 Annual Report, Fowke wrote, “Ongoing earnings per share were $1.72 in 2011, compared with $1.62 in 2010. That means we achieved the upper half of our guidance range, making 2011 the seventh consecutive year in which we have met or exceeded our earnings guidance.  Ongoing earnings increased primarily due to higher electric margins as a result of warmer-than-normal summer weather across our service territory and rate increases in various states.” [Emphasis mine] Translation: Tiered rates penalize working families and line shareholders pockets.
  • Fowke also wrote, “stock price rose 17 percent in 2011 hitting a nine-year high in December.”
  • Xcel brags about being the number one provider of wind energy, which is more expensive and heavily subsidized.
  • According to the first quarter 2012 earnings report, Xcel earned 38 cents per share (EPS). Colorado’s roughly 1.4 million ratepayers representing slightly more than 25 percent of Xcel’s total customers accounted for 19 cents, or 50 percent, of the company’s EPS.  A trend we noticed in 2010.

Xcel Energy lobbies for consumers to pay more and for it to pay less, which would be fine if ratepayers had a choice in service providers.  But we don’t. As a result, Xcel profits handsomely as a state-sanctioned monopoly while consumers have no choice but to pay ever-higher energy bills.

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Controversial NREL Director to Chair National Science Board

May 18, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

In the wake of controversial comments advocating the end of fossil fuels as sources for US energy in order to combat global warming, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Director Dan Arvizu has been elected Chairman of the National Science Board (NSB) according to an NREL press release.

Just days ago during the World Renewable Energy Forum, Arvizu stated, “’fossil fuels should be phased out by 2040 to blunt man-made climate change,’”… and that natural gas is little more than “’a nice bridge technology, but not the answer we are looking for in terms of a transition and transformation,’” away from fossil fuels and toward alternatives such as wind, solar, and biofuels, of which NREL is a champion.

According to the NSB’s Web site,

The National Science Board has two important roles. First, it establishes the policies of NSF [National Science Foundation] within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President and the Congress. In this capacity, the Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF’s future, approves NSF’s strategic budget directions and the annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget, and approves new major programs and awards. The second role of the Board is to serve as an independent body of advisors to both the President and the Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science and engineering. In addition to major reports, the NSB also publishes occasional policy papers or statements on issues of importance to U.S. science and engineering.

The NREL press release describes the NSB:

The 25-member body advises the president and Congress on science and engineering issues, and is the policy-setting and budget-approving body for the National Science Foundation. With an annual budget of $6.9 billion, the foundation funds about 20 percent of all federally supported basic scientific research at U.S. colleges and universities. Arvizu will serve a two-year term as chairman.

With an anti-fossil fuel, global warming alarmist like Arvizu at the helm of the NSB, the politicalization of science will continue when it comes to energy policy.

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Bill to increase renewable mandate dies

May 4, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Good news for ratepayers in Colorado. Sources at the capitol tell me that SB 178, the disastrous legislation that would have increased Colorado’s renewable energy mandate, died today in the State Senate.

More information to follow.

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SB 178: Don’t fear the multiplier

May 3, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

As we stated in an earlier post, there are plenty of reasons for concern over SB 178, State Senator Angela Giron’s attempt to increase significantly the state’s renewable energy mandate, including:

  • Dramatic increase in electric rates.
  • Lack of input from stakeholders including ratepayers and some utilities.
  • Significant policy change introduced just days before the end of the session.

Oddly enough, none of those issues bothers bill supporters. Instead a commonplace multiplier (explained here) used in numerous states to soften the financial burden of renewable energy for ratepayers is the burr in their saddle and the impetus for SB 178.

We did a little research and found the examples of how several states use a similar multiplier  or “credit” that Colorado environmentalists think is imperative to expunge from statute. The following information came from the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies (DSIRE).

Arizona:

Extra credit multipliers may be earned for early installation of certain technologies, in-state solar installation, and in-state manufactured content. The multipliers are additive, but cannot exceed 2.0.

Delaware:

Several compliance multipliers are currently available under the Delaware RPS. The details of these multipliers are described below:

  • 300% credit toward RPS compliance for in-state customer-sited photovoltaic generation and fuel cells using renewable fuels that are installed on or before December 31, 2014. The 300% multiplier cannot be applied to SRECs used for compliance with the PV carve-out (see PSC notice), thus for PV carve-out compliance purposes, SRECs are counted on a 1-to-1 basis. The 300% credit formerly applied to all solar electric generation prior to the 2007 amendments.
  • 150% credit toward RPS compliance for energy generated by wind turbines sited in Delaware on or before December 31, 2012. This provision dates to the 2005 legislation that established the RPS.
  • 350% credit for PSC-regulated electric companies (i.e., Delmarva Power & Light, the state’s only investor-owned utility) for energy derived from offshore wind facilities sited on or before May 31, 2017. This provision was added by S.B. 328 in 2008.

District of Columbia:

Certain renewable resources have in the past received preferential treatment through the use of compliance multipliers. Before January 1, 2007, electricity suppliers received 120% credit toward meeting the RPS for energy generated by wind or solar. Between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009, electricity suppliers received 110% credit for energy generated by wind or solar. Before January 1, 2010, electricity suppliers received 110% credit for energy generated by landfill methane or wastewater-treatment methane. Suppliers that fail to comply with the requirements must pay $0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of shortfall from required Tier 1 resources, $0.01 for each kWh of shortfall from Tier 2 resources.Solar energy sources have an unique set of shortfall payment requirements, from 2011 through 2016 at $.50 per kWh, $0.35 in 2017, $0.30 in 2018, $0.20 in 2019 and 2020, $0.15 in 2021 and 2022, and $0.05 in 2023 and thereafter. Alternative compliance fees are deposited into the D.C. Renewable Energy Development Fund and may be used to provide support to renewable energy projects. Energy supply contracts entered into prior to August 1, 2011 will not be subject to the increased solar requirements.

Kansas:

Each MW of eligible capacity installed in Kansas after January 1, 2000 will count as 1.1 MW for the purpose of compliance.

Maryland:

Initially, the RPS included credit multipliers for wind, solar, and methane. The multiplier for solar was replaced by the 2% solar requirement in 2007. Multipliers for wind and methane remained for facilities placed in service on or after January 1, 2004, although both have subsequently expired:

  • A supplier received 120% credit toward meeting its Tier 1 obligations through RECs associated with wind energy through December 31, 2005. Beginning in 2006 and through 2008, a 110% credit was in effect.
  • A supplier received 110% credit toward meeting its Tier 1 obligations through RECs associated with energy derived from methane through 2008.

Michigan:

Bonus Credits
The standard also contains a series of bonus credits, termed Michigan incentive renewable energy credits, for each megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated by certain types of systems. These credits act in addition to the single credit that a facility receives for producing 1 MWh of electricity from a qualified resource. Thus it is possible to earn multiple credit bonuses on a single MWh of electricity generation. The bonuses are described below.

  • Electricity produced using solar power receives an additional 2 credits per MWh.
  • Renewable electricity produced at peak demand times by technologies other than wind receives an additional 1/5 credit per MWh. Peak demand time was defined by the PSC in a December 2008 temporary order as weekdays between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, excepting certain holidays.
  • Off-peak renewable electricity generation stored using advanced electric storage technology or hydroelectric pumped storage and used during peak demand times receives an additional 1/5 credit per MWh. The credit is calculated based on the initial amount of electricity used to charge the storage device, not the amount that is discharged.
  • Renewable electricity produced using equipment manufactured within the state of Michigan receives an additional 1/10 credit per MWh. This add-on is only available for three years after the in-service date of the facility.
  • Renewable electricity produced using a system which was constructed using an in-state workforce receives an additional 1/10 credit per MWh. This add-on is only available for three years after the in-service date of the facility.

Texas:

Pursuant to meeting the 500 MW non-wind goal contained in S.B. 20 of 2005, the PUCT has elected to award a “compliance premium” for each non-wind REC generated after December 31, 2007. Compliance premiums are functionally equivalent to a REC for the RPS compliance purposes and may only be awarded to non-wind facilities that were installed and certified by the PUCT after September 1, 2005. This method effectively doubles the compliance value of electricity generated by renewable resources other than wind.

Utah:

Electricity may be produced within the state, or within the geographic boundary of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. Notably, each kWh of electricity produced using solar energy counts as 2.4 kWh for the purposes of meeting the goal.

West Virginia:

Credits will be awarded in the following way:

  • One credit for each MWh of electricity generated or purchased from an alternative energy resource facility. It should be noted that utilities may meet no more than 10% of the standard with credits obtained from electricity generated from natural gas.
  • Two credits for each MWh of electricity generated or purchased from a renewable energy resource facility
  • Three credits for each MWh of electricity generated or purchased from a renewable energy resource facility located on a reclaimed surface mine in West Virginia
  • Customer-generators will be awarded one credit for each MWh of electricity generated from an alternative energy resource facility and two credits for each MWh of electricity generated from a renewable energy resource facility.
  • The PSC is authorized to award one credit to an electric utility for each ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent reduced or offset by approved projects.
  • The PSC is also authorized to award one credit to an electric utility for each MWh of electricity conserved by an approved energy efficiency or demand-side management project, provided that the project savings are verified and certified according to PSC rules (to be determined).

Bottom line is don’t fear the multiplier. It serves to save ratepayers money. Fear the environmentalists and the lawmakers who want it to go away.

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Green Energy Causes . . . Warming?

April 30, 2012 by michael · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Perhaps the number one reason for pushing so-called clean, green renewable energy projects is to reduce warming that, according to climate change proponents, increases climate volatility–(formerly known as global warming and now increasingly identified as the wild but undefined “change” that so worries them)–creating the need to build ever more renewable projects.

But according to the latest scientific observations, at least one of those technologies has a rather troubling and substantial down side:

Using sensors aboard a NASA satellite, researchers at the University at Albany-State University of New York, and the University of Illinois systematically tracked a cluster of wind farms in central Texas as the installations grew from a few dozen turbines in 2003 to more than 2,350 by 2011.

On average, the nighttime air around the wind farms became about 0.72 degree Celsius warmer over that time, compared with the surrounding area, the scientists reported Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.

“The warming trend corresponds very well with the growth of the wind turbines,” said wind-energy expert Somnath Baidya Roy at the University of Illinois, who was part of the research group. “The warming is going to level off when you stop adding more turbines.”

From another report on the same story:

While converting the kinetic energy of wind into electricity, wind turbines modify exchanges between the ground and atmosphere, and affect the transfer of energy, momentum, mass and moisture within the air, the authors of the study said.

“Our results show a significant warming trend of up to 0.72 degree per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions,” wrote lead author Liming Zhou, a Research Associate Professor from the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at University at Albany. “We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms as its spatial pattern and magnitude couples very well with the geographic distribution of wind turbines.”

With calls for increasing wind farm generation through renewable energy mandates or increasing government subsidies over the next two decades, this warming effect could pose significant local problems if the amount of increase–0.72 degrees Celsius–holds.

Why?

That’s more than three times the amount of temperature increase per decade estimated by climate change advocates:

Scientists say the world’s average temperature has warmed by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900, and nearly 0.2 degrees per decade since 1979. Efforts to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are not seen as sufficient to stop the planet heating up beyond 2 degrees C this century, a threshold scientists say risks an unstable climate in which weather extremes are common.

From the WSJ:

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SB 178: sordid tale to increase renewable mandate

April 28, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, HB 1365, New Energy Economy 

“One hundred nine days into a 120-day session you introduced major [energy policy] legislation,” Senator Steve King (R-Grand Junction) skeptically asked of SB 178 sponsor Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo).

Sen. King’s skepticism is justified because SB 178 is a significant policy change that increases Colorado’s renewable energy mandate by 20 percent.  Because renewable energy is not competitive with traditional fossil fuels, supporters of the mandate originally included a multiplier to make it more palatable when advancing prior legislation to increase the mandate.

Under current law, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity provided by a renewable resource it counts as one and one quarter hour toward Colorado’s 30 percent renewable mandate. In other words, Colorado’s actual mandate is 24 percent.  SB 178 REMOVES the multiplier, raising the mandate significantly and, ultimately, electricity rates.

During testimony on Tuesday, April 24, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the sordid legislative tale of SB 178 began to unfold. It has been dubbed “son of 1365,” referring to the collusion and fast tracking of Colorado’s infamous fuel-switching bill passed in 2010.

Winners

Renewable energy companies are win big with SB 178 because utilities will be forced to either “build more or buy more” renewable energy. No shock that wind and solar advocates testified in favor.

New Energy Economy advocates who still believe that wind and solar are commercially viable energy sources, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary also win because SB 178 continues to fuel their green fantasies.

Xcel Energy doesn’t show up on a search of lobbyists for and against SB 178, but a number of sources tell me that Colorado’s largest investor owned utility (IOU) has been working hard on this bill at the state capital. Why? Because Xcel has banked significant renewable energy credits (RECs), which they can sell to other utilities in order to meet the higher standard. Also, as energy rates go up, and they will under SB 178, Xcel makes more money because the Public Utility Commission guarantees Xcel’s rate of return. (Example: 10 percent of $100 is a lot more than 10 percent of $75)

The Chinese will be big winners – yes, the Chinese. The more we rely upon wind and solar as a source of energy, the more dependent we become on the Chinese who control 95 percent the world’s supply or rare earth minerals necessary to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines.

Losers

Consumers and the economy will lose big. Representing Black Hills Energy, Colorado’s second largest IOU, Wendy Moser testified against SB 178 because Black Hills estimates rates will rise 25 percent in order to pay for the increased mandate.  The increase will stifle all economic activity because energy costs will needlessly take a larger percentage of consumers’ and businesses’ budgets.

Large energy consumers such as mining companies and heavy manufacturing which are energy intensive will lose big because their cost of doing business will go up and make them less competitive.

The environment is also a loser; as we have documented renewable energy is neither clean nor green. In fact, if Colorado exacerbates reliance on China, we fuel the pending ecological disaster.

Highlights from testimony on SB 178

  • Supporters call eliminating the 1.25 multiplier “leveling the playing field” because it’s time renewables compete in a “free market.” Advocates repeated these catch phrases numerous times, and I assume they did so with a straight face (I only listened to testimony).  If they truly believed in a free market, the discussion would be about eliminating the 30 percent renewable mandate rather than just a multiplier.
  • Supporter Neal Lurie from the Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association (COSEIA) had the audacity to call eliminating the multiplier good for transparency for consumers. Just a year ago, COSEIA testified against SB11-30 transparency for ratepayers, Senator Scott Renfroe’s bill that would have required IOUs such as Xcel to disclose the actual cost of electricity by fuel source on a quarterly basis.  Lurie and COSEIA don’t want consumers to know the real cost of renewable energy because they know it far exceeds the misleading “2 percent rate cap.”
  • Black Hills and Tri-State Generation, electricity provider to numerous local co-ops, combined represent roughly 1 million ratepayers in Colorado. Yet bill supporters never consulted either company about SB 178.  These two power providers did not find out about this attempt at massive policy change until a few days before testimony. Thank you to Senator King for repeatedly bringing up the timeline.
  • The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) continues the 2 percent rate cap sham that we have discredited on numerous occasions. The total cost of renewable energy is not contained within the two percent rate cap on consumers’ bills, see the paper I co-authored with William Yeatman “The Great Green Deception.” Updated figures and brief explanation of how Xcel avoids the 2 percent cap are provided below.*
  • Gene Camp of the PUC initially testified that raising the mandate by 20 percent would have no impact on ratepayers’ electric bills. Following a discussion of what will happen to the two percent rate cap, Senator Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) pressed that increasing the amount of energy derived from a more expensive fuel source will increase rates. Silence befell the room for 5 or 6 seconds before Camp then responded that it’s up to legislature because he is unsure what will happen.
  • Attorney General John Suthers’ office testified in favor of SB 178 because the current multiplier applies only to Colorado produced renewable power and may be unconstitutional. When Senator Lundberg suggested that Colorado extend the multiplier to all renewable power producers regardless of location, the AG office agreed that likely would satisfy the constitutional issue.
  • Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) wondered why no one caught the constitutional conflict before.
  • Sen. Lundberg did offer an amendment to extend the multiplier to all states and save consumers money, but it was defeated.

Like HB 1365, SB 178 makes a mockery of the legislative process. This bill smells dirty. Introduced at the last moment and key stakeholders were not even invited to participate. It’s a disaster for Colorado ratepayers. It’s not about consumers or markets or leveling the playing field, SB 178 is about enriching the eco-left and Xcel Energy.  That’s no shock because whatever Xcel wants, Xcel gets.

*The following comes from an op-ed I co-authored with energy policy center colleague Michael Sandoval and originally published in January. It provides a brief summary of how the PUC allows Xcel to avoid the two percent rate cap.

It is true Xcel stayed within the two percent rate cap line item labeled the Renewable Electric Standard Adjustment (RESA) on customers’ electric bills. But it is not true that the RESA represents the real, total cost of renewable energy to Xcel ratepayers, and Bakers knows it.

Two years ago in the “Great Green Deception,” the Independence Institute exposed how the PUC allows Xcel to hide the real cost of renewable energy by utilizing two line items on a ratepayer’s bill.  Customers pay two percent of their bill through RESA, but the balance of the total cost of renewable energy is captured through another fund – the Electric Commodity Adjustment (ECA) – that is likely the second largest line item cost.

The practice continues today as Xcel’s Robin Kittel explained in direct testimony to the PUC regarding its 2012 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan. According to Kittel, Xcel recovers the cost of renewable energy “through a combination of the RESA and ECA.”

The ECA is NOT subject to the legislatively mandated two percent rate cap. The Public Utility Commission staff’s William Dalton acknowledged the PUC’s role in confusing the public about the rate cap in his September 2009 testimony before the commission:

“This could be a point of confusion to ratepayers and other interested parties…The costs above the retail rate impact limit are recovered through other Commission approved cost recovery mechanisms, primarily the ECA. [Emphasis ours] Once the renewable energy resource cost recovery is allocated to the ECA, cost recovery of these resources is no longer subject to retail rate impact criteria or cost cap.”

According to Xcel’s 2012 Renewable Energy Compliance Plan, ECA costs were $35,280,340 in 2011, but will explode by more than 1000 percent to $354,819,209 in 2021 (thanks also to Colorado’s $20 per ton “phantom carbon tax”). Yet Xcel and Baker [PUC Commissioner Matt Baker] can claim to be within the two percent rate cap for the RESA.

It is easy to be angry with Xcel for all the cost shifting shenanigans, but the blame should be placed on lawmakers and PUC commissioners.

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