False Green Energy Claims Endanger Lives

Among their dubious claims and assertions, Climate Change and Green Transition self-styled activists advance their goals with one outright fiction: that ‘levelized’ power costs from solar panels and wind turbines […]
Published on October 15, 2022

Among their dubious claims and assertions, Climate Change and Green Transition self-styled activists advance their goals with one outright fiction: that ‘levelized’ power costs from solar panels and wind turbines is very low – lower than the marginal cost (being only unit cash and capital cost, ignoring some or all recycling-disposal costs) of natural gas-fired, nuclear and coal-fired power.  This quite questionable levelized cost disregards the very real costs and risks of intermittent, low, or, entirely absent power being the crucial flaw of ‘alternative’ or ‘green’ power technologies, most disastrously now in Europe.

Unlike the ‘traditional’, conventional, and legacy forms of power cited above, the ‘climate-friendly’ ones are not available at all times, such as in an unusually calm condition, or, as in Texas last year, with a severe cold snap.  Energy storage is expensive, indeed prohibitively so, and hence not used extensively.

The not-very economic ways to store electricity include: batteries; pumped hydro storage, either in hydroelectric reservoirs or elevated water tanks; gravitational; thermal (water or sodium metal); compressed air; and hydrogen from electrolyzing water.  To store twenty-to twenty-four kilowatt-hours costs roughly USD$400 per kwh, or USD$9,600 in total (according to the U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), using either lithium-ion and nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries.  One kilowatt of solar panel capacity should cost a little under USD$1,000, retail.

So, robust and reliable energy storage costs nearly ten times what supposedly ‘free’ solar power does.  While storage costs decline for larger capacities, and compressed air looks particularly intriguing according to PNNL, the green energy industry does not appear to want to pair its offerings with the storage needed to avoid disastrous outages. Instead, solar seeks a free ride on other forms of power.

Typically, solar or wind power providers blithely connect to the grid with little or no storage attached to their offerings.  This has become the standard fare, though rarely publicized.  When green energy does not deliver, other power generators attached to a grid must make up for it.  Most grids, for sure in Europe and the United States, seek out average lowest cost power before high reliability.  Thus, when sun or wind are scarce, or demand soars – the case in Texas last year, or in Europe now – green energy fails.  Prices then rocket up, and families and firms risk a dark freeze.  Sadly, this may soon hit the European Union.

Cost of power is not paramount, reliability is.  In this crucial factor, coal wins, with gas second.

At the end of the day what does a shortage of energy lead to?  Consider that annual global freezing deaths are much higher than heat fatalities.  Unaffordable energy may bring more illness, death and poverty this year and next.  Reliance on deceptively promoted energy sources, and Russia, a nefarious and unfaithful supplier of baseload energy, natural gas, has led to war and recession, not Utopia. The anti-nuclear and anti-petroleum crusaders in Germany permitted two new gas pipelines from Russia to provide the base energy that allowed the hook-up of fluctuating wind and solar output.

Dangerous, deceptively promoted ‘green’ policies could lead to economic chaos and even cold weather deaths in North America, too.  Two thirds of 246 deaths attributed to the February 2021 winter storm in Texas were from hypothermia.

If ‘green’ advocates truly stand behind their claims, their preferred ‘alternative energy’ sources must combine adequate power storage with the unreliable, expensive technologies they seek to impose on everybody when connecting to the grid.

 

Ian Madsen is senior policy analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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