BY CRAIG RUCKER,
Politicians, activists and lobbyists worried about a “climate crisis” and determined to compel a rapid transition from fossil fuels to “clean, renewable” energy seem to think it’s a slam-dunk process.
They believe they can simply implement laws, regulations and executive orders, provide hundreds of billions in subsidies, and voila! The “Green” energy transformation will proceed on schedule with no supply-chain disruptions, blackouts, escalating costs or other economic and environmental consequences.
Any opposition to enormous wind and solar construction, they reason can be easily addressed by doling out huge taxpayer subsidies as a carrot. And if that fails, they will use eminent domain and other impositions of federal power as a stick, counting on the media all the while to give them cover.
These assumptions, however, are becoming increasingly dubious. Public backlash is growing, and serious technical difficulties are proving difficult to correct, even at the cost of trillions of dollars.
At the heart of the problem is the stability and reliability of an aging electrical grid that was never designed for a total Green New Deal-style overhaul.
An August 2023 report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) underscores the scope of these difficulties.
Very soon, NERC says, America will no longer have most of the coal, gas or even nuclear power stations that have served it well for decades. Most were located close to end users, required only short transmission lines, and provided affordable electricity almost 24/7. Shortsighted policy decisions are closing them far more rapidly than even unreliable wind and solar can theoretically replace them.
The new onshore and offshore wind and solar installations will be much farther from customers, will thus require tens of thousands of miles of new interconnected transmission lines, in addition to numerous transformers, control rooms and other specialized technologies.
These new technologies require integrated communications and “advanced, coordinated controls” that open numerous doors to hackers, thus increasing security risks, NERC adds. In addition, the equipment and battery modules increasingly come from China, which has the ability and proclivity to embed gateways for remote control of this equipment. Once these are in place, Chinese and other hackers could easily disrupt part or all of the U.S. grid.
Sprawling, enormously expanded systems of wind turbines, solar panels, transformers, transmission lines, and grid-stabilizing and backup batteries will be highly susceptible to damage from hail, high winds and sub-zero temperatures. Powerful hurricanes barreling through thousands of offshore wind turbines could also cause devastation requiring years to repair.
There are no data actually supporting concerns about more frequent or intense hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms or blizzards. But climate activists who are fearful about such potential weather trends should recognize immediately the related concerns about going all-renewable. The ability to handle extreme events is fundamental to any electricity system, especially one intended to replace fossil fuels that still provide nearly 80 percent of America’s energy. A grid adapted to expand renewables will be much more vulnerable.
The U.S. electric utility industry’s Electric Power Research Institute likewise concludes that the industry simply cannot reach “net zero” in generating electricity. So-called “clean electricity” sources, give electrification of much of the U.S. economy, “are not sufficient by themselves to achieve net-zero economy-wide emissions,” even if coupled with greater energy efficiency.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Mark Christie recently told Congress: “The problem is not the addition of wind and solar. The problem is the subtraction of coal, gas and other dispatchable resources [that] we need during this transition…The grid has to have power being fed into it every second of every minute of every hour of every day to keep the lights on.”
Another simple translation: If we don’t have sufficient fossil fuel plants to come to the rescue and provide reliable juice when solar and wind are napping, the whole grid will come crashing down.
Dominion Energy of Virginia has admitted that three of its plans do not meet its own stated goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Its other two plans rely on technology that does not currently exist.
Americans could face catastrophe if the Biden administration continues phasing out existing fossil fuel plants and replacing them with intermittent renewable sources of “green” energy. While this may earn the administration some brownie points from radical environmentalists, it will probably not play so well with the American public when their light switches fail to click on.
Craig Rucker is president of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.