Will CA green-energy policies backfire like Germany’s did?

Will California’s new green energy regime suffer the same fate as Germany’s Energiewende?

In Europe, wholesale prices for solar and wind power have dropped below the cost to produce it. This has resulted in Germany having to rapidly build new polluting coal-fired power plants to offset the unanticipated losses from its shift to green power called Energiewende (German for “Energy Transformation”). Europe’s Energiewende has backfired resulting in its having to return to dependence on coal-fired power plants. Will California suffer the same fate of uneconomic green energy prices and a “deeply regrettable misinvestment” in green power?

This is a question I posed to Schalk Cloete, a chemical engineer and climate scientist who has morphed into an expert on the economics of green power. Cloete is a chemical engineer from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and now a research scientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

I had an online discussion with Cloete at The Energy Collective website regarding his Jan. 9 article “The Effect of Intermittent Renewables on Electricity Prices in Germany.”

I posted a question for Cloete online about whether California could suffer similar problems as Germany if it reaches its 33 percent goal for green power under its Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 enacted into law as Assembly Bill 32.

Expert: California’s circumstances may help it avoid some headaches

California does not publicize its energy data in the same detail as Germany. But Cloete still ventured a few qualitative observations:

. The negative impact of solar photovoltaic power should be substantially less severe in California than Germany. Cloete said this is because California solar has a higher capacity factor than Germany.  He added, however, “California wind (power) is not very high quality, though.”

· California has cheap natural gas and hydroelectric power that can balance out renewables whereas Germany has to depend on coal power.

· California’s proposed Energy Imbalancing Market will “increase the value of intermittent renewables by lowering their effective penetration” because “additional transmission costs and complexity (will) start to outweigh these benefits.”  California’s Energy Imbalancing Market is a strategy to buy cheap out-of-state hydropower from federal dams to replace the government-induced high price for natural gas peaker power as a result of shifting to green power.

· This will, however, socialize peak energy prices and privatize off-peak energy prices by “asking people in areas with low/negligible penetration of intermittent renewables to shoulder a substantial part of this cost burden.”

· The Energy Imbalance Market will create “wealth transfer” from people in areas with low green power market penetration (Texas, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and New Mexico) to those  with relatively higher market penetration (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho).  This may explain why the states of Oregon, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico joined California in the Western Climate Initiative.

·  Cloete also thinks California stands a better chance of escaping the European scourge of negative green energy prices if it does not expand green power beyond its present 20 percent penetration to meet its goal of a 33 percent renewable energy standard by 2020.

Renewable energy ‘least practical’ way to limit CO2 emissions

Cloete believes in the conventional wisdom  about global warming happening because of a buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, he is among those who question the conventional wisdom about how to stop it. Cloete said green power “is helping to lock in decades of emissions” from fossil-fueled power plants.

His verdict on the solar and wind energy proposals so beloved by California’s environmentalists? “Despite their ideological attractiveness, intermittent renewables remain the most expensive and least practical mechanism for C02 abatement,” he said.


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  1. John Galt
    John Galt 14 January, 2014, 07:36

    While California and Washington State, the US and many other industrialized OECD countries literally spend billions of dollars each year to switch-off petroleum and go “renewable”, China, India, the Middle East and other non-OECD countries are expanding their use of fossil fuels for transportation and energy production using petroleum and coal at high rates.

    The US EIA (EIA, 2013, pp. 23-29) forecasts total oil consumption in the US will remain static over the next 30 years, through 2040; however, China’s daily oil consumption, which is driven by millions of new automobiles, is expected to increase by another 18 million barrels per day (about 756 million gallons per day)!

    “Green initiatives” have Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and most Europeans increasingly paying higher gasoline prices, and, forced into state-mandated energy rationing via highly inverted utility rates meant to discourage use and achieve ridiculous “green energy resource goals”. On the other hand, China, India and Middle Eastern countries have increased petroleum consumption through the roof!

    Unfortunately, few commentators review the “global” aspects of carbon pollution, instead focusing on US consumption behavior and trends. When one steps outside our narrow community, and considers actual global petroleum demands, our conservation and rationing efforts become negligible, if not insignificant, in the global marketplace.

    Further, in spite of non-OECD countries’ enormous increase in fossil fuel consumption, global warming over the same period decreased. One must conclude that oil consumption and global climate change are not correlated, or only have a very weak correlation. If they were linked, wouldn’t temperatures around the globe be skyrocketing from the enormous increase in oil consumption for vehicle transportation?

    It’s time that California ends its experiment with climate change, cap and trade, unfair electric rates and extreme air quality regulations.

    US DOE/EIA “International Energy Outlook 2013, with forecasts to 2040” (July 25, 2013). DOE/EIA-0484 (2013). Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/.

    Reply this comment
  2. Manfred von Borks, Sc.D.
    Manfred von Borks, Sc.D. 14 January, 2014, 12:25

    For an in-depth report on California PV Solar, the dark side of solar power, please see: http://www.solarproblems.info

    Reply this comment
  3. John Galt
    John Galt 15 January, 2014, 09:07

    Excellent report Dr. von Borks.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 15 January, 2014, 09:48

    The dark side of solar! LMAO Dr. Van Nostrum…

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 15 January, 2014, 19:17

    Try and get solar parts a few years after installation……Phones disconnected……warehouse burned down in China……current installers just laugh at the obsolete, cheesy wires/pipes and miscellaneous crap strewn all over your cracked tile roof!

    But you have a shiny framed 20 year Warranty from Big Skies Solar Partners!


    Reply this comment

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