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American Wind Energy Association Whiffs in Their Attack on Our Report

American Experiment’s report “Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure,” must have the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) quivering in their boots. The national lobbying organization for Big Wind put out a blog post that attempted to refute our study…

They failed spectacularly.

I’ll present their arguments, and why they fall flat below.

MYTH #1: WIND IS CAUSING MINNESOTA’S ELECTRICITY PRICES TO INCREASE

“It is true that Minnesota’s electricity prices have increased relative to national averages. Today, the average price of electricity in Minnesota is on-par with the national price. However, it was 20% cheaper than the national average back in 2001. But it is incorrect to attribute that  increase to wind power.

In reality, a whole host of factors contribute to changes in electricity prices. First, national electricity prices have remained relatively flat over the past two decades, thanks in part to investments in new natural gas-fired and renewable generating plants.

In comparison, Minnesota utilities had to invest in a variety of grid upgrades over the past 20 years, including spending on new natural-gas fired power plants, upgrades to existing plants to meet air quality regulations, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and renewable generation.”

This “Myth” is easily refuted. Minnesota has spent a fortune on wind energy and far less on upgrading other sources of energy. As I wrote in Citypages:

“The costs of retrofitting and upgrading the Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants, and various upgrades and conversions at Big Stone, Sherco Becker (2 plants), Allen S. King, Riverside, Black Dog, and all MN Power Facilities—which includes the Clay Boswell power plant— and our results were:

Drumroll, please…

About $4.5 billion to upgrade all of these facilities, or $10.5 billion less than the cost of building wind turbines and the transmission lines needed to transport the electricity generated from them.”

Despite the high price tag, Minnesota has still failed to make meaningful progress on reducing CO2 emissions.

MYTH #2: MINNESOTA IS NOT LOWERING ITS CO2 EMISSIONS

“CAE claims that the addition of renewable power sources like wind and solar have had no impact on CO2 emissions in the state. To the contrary, adding wind power has contributed to lower emissions. Minnesota’s power section CO2 emissions peaked back in 2003. In that year, Minnesota power plants emitted 36.4 million metric tons of CO2. In the fifteen years since, Minnesota’s power sector emissions have fallen to 27 million metric tons, a 25% decline. During that same time period, 85% of the state’s wind power capacity was built.”

The AWEA blog post cherry-picks a bit here. CO2 emissions did peak in 2003, but we’re really only interested in the degree to which wind power had reduced carbon dioxide emissions, so using 2003 as a baseline, instead of 2007 when then-governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act into law, makes no sense.

The table above from the Energy Information Administration shows CO2 emissions fell about 5 percent between 2003 and 2007, which means giving wind the credit is disingenuous.

Emissions of CO2 have fallen, but we could have reduced our CO2 emissions by a larger degree, for far less money by investing in nuclear energy, instead of wind. Unfortunately, bad policy at the state level prevents new nuclear power plants from being built.

Nuclear is a superior bet because it is affordable, and reliable.

MYTH #3: WIND IS UNRELIABLE AND REQUIRES EXPENSIVE BACKUP POWER

The truth is that Minnesota relies on a diversified power system that leverages the strengths of different technologies to reliably deliver consumers the electricity they need. Grid operators are the experts here and they’ve found that they can reliably and efficiently handle large amount of wind energy on their systems. Wind patterns change slowly over time, which allows grid operators to anticipate different levels of wind power generation and adjust the system efficiently to accommodate those changes.

This is perhaps the biggest whopper of the entire blog post. Wind claims to be low-cost, but it requires other sources of power to “adjust the system efficiently to accommodate” wind power. This simply shifts the cost of balancing the grid to other sources of electricity. It’s a bad deal for Minnesotans.

MYTH #4: NOBODY IN MINNESOTA IS LOOKING OUT FOR CONSUMERS

“The Alliance would like you to think that ‘Big Wind’ has duped legislators and consumers into adding an unneeded and expensive power source to the grid, and that there is no one to represent the interest of the consumer. This could not be further from the truth—there is an entire body setup to protect electricity customers: the Public Utility Commission.”

The PUC is charged to establish “just and reasonable rates,” it is not a watchdog dedicated to ensuring customers have the lowest-possible electricity prices.

That’s what American Experiment is for.

 

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