Running on hot air

Behind Minneapolis’ bogus renewable energy pledge.

The Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey recently announced their unanimous pledge to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity for municipal facilities and operations by 2022 and citywide by 2030. Here are three reasons why this pledge is an expensive fraud:

1. It’s not possible, unless the city plans to run exclusively on hydroelectric power. Wind and solar can produce electricity only when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining. Otherwise the city must purchase electricity from the grid, which is powered mostly by coal and nuclear plants. The city will likely muddy the issue by using an accounting gimmick called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which enables it to buy certificates from a renewable energy generator. In essence, the City of Minneapolis will not actually be buying green energy, it will just be buying the piece of paper that is associated with a given megawatt hour of renewable energy produced somewhere throughout the country.

2. Additional costs will be passed on to taxpayers. Previous agreements to purchase renewable energy mean the city already pays a six to twelve percent premium for electricity. Businesses and families will have to pay more money in taxes so the city can purchase the same electricity they would have bought anyway. Let’s pretend Minneapolis buys their RECs from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for $8 per megawatt hour. The city government of Minneapolis uses about 90,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year. This means the city would be paying an extra $720,000 ($8 x 90,000=$720,000) for the same electricity they would have purchased anyway, but now there is an REC attached to it.

3. The carbon dioxide offset by this measure would be globally irrelevant. If the entire United States were to comply fully with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it would only avert 0.019 degree C of potential future global warming by 2100, according to the climate models used by the previous administration. That number is an amount too small to be accurately measured with the most sophisticated scientific equipment. This means that Mayor Frey and the members of the City Council are asking Minneapolis taxpayers to pay an extra $720,000 per year for a policy that is utterly irrelevant to global temperatures.

The claim of 100 percent renewable energy is incredibly misleading because the government buildings in Minneapolis will still be mostly powered by coal and nuclear plants, but citizens of the city will get to pay more in taxes so the mayor and city council members can pose for pictures and pat themselves on the back for “being green.”