The sustainability of renewable energy and the five Es

How do wind and solar power stack up against the five Es of sustainability?
Empirical (scientific justification)
Engineering
Economic
Environmental
Ethical

Incidentally right now Wind and Solar are delivering about 5% of the modest Sunday afternoon demand. Wind is contributing under 2%. By dinner time the sun will clock off and we will get a repeat of the previous two days when the the sun and wind were irrelevant at the evening peak. That probably tells you as much as you need to know about the sustainability of unreliable energy. Very expensive virtue-signalling.

Turning to the empirical base for the RE experiment. First of all there is alarm about the effects of the beneficial warming and CO2 fertilization that we have enjoyed since the Little Ice Age. That warming ceased for all practical purposes around 1998 and we are now alarmed about the possibility of more warming driven by CO2 emissions. The science suggests that CO2 is at most (if at all) a modest driver of warming, as the experience of the last two decades suggests. Not much empirical base.

On the engineering feasibility of RE at the level required to satisfy the Carbonphobes, there are suggestions that really major problems in grid management occur after about 20% penetration of wind and sun. We are not there yet but we soon will be given the amount of work in progress. Engineering issues very rapidly turn into economic issues.

The economics of RE favour investors at the expense of everyone else as the Fisher modelling demonstrated. All you can say for the Coalition policy is that it is less absurd than the old ALP position. The most dangerous aspect of the system is the way RE predators tend to drive out the coal-fired providers. Given the RE supply lately the unreliables need almost 100% backup from other sources. Interesting times ahead! All the overseas experience shows that power becomes more expensive as the RE content increases. Very creative accounting is required to sustain the illusion that RE is getting cheaper than coal. Just ignore the transmission lines and the subsidies. In any case we have to keep coal until there is a new generation of storage so we are stuck with dual power systems for a long time to come. Unless we go nuclear.

A major study in the US makes the economic point.

Solar panels and wind turbines are making electricity significantly more expensive, a major new study by a team of economists from the University of Chicago finds.

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) “significantly increase average retail electricity prices, with prices increasing by 11% (1.3 cents per kWh) seven years after the policy’s passage into law and 17% (2 cents per kWh) twelve years afterward,” the economists write.

The study uses what the economists say is “the most comprehensive state-level dataset ever compiled” which covered 1990 to 2015.

The cost to consumers has been staggeringly high: “All in all, seven years after passage, consumers in the 29 states had paid $125.2 billion more for electricity than they would have in the absence of the policy,” they write.

Last year, I was the first journalist to report that solar and wind are making electricity more expensive in the United States — and for inherently physical reasons.

The massive human and environmental impact of RE has been documented in a previous post. This raises the ethical issue. We are spending trillions and doing all this damage to avoid hypothetical harms that may arise decades in the future while all the waste and destruction is happening around us and has been building up for decades.

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18 Responses to The sustainability of renewable energy and the five Es

  1. Muddy

    There are two elements to the ethical side of this:
    1). ethical decision-making regarding the spending of enormous amounts of taxpayer’s money (including the money of future taxpayers) by people who stand to financially benefit from such ‘investments’, and
    2). a social responsibility to consider the financial and quality-of-life interests of those in society who may be adversely affected by the rising cost of basic needs, and the loss of employment opportunities from damage to industry.

    One might conceivably argue that despite desperate attempts to siphon ‘reparations’ from the first to the third world, the average third world citizen will be worse off due to the denial of affordable electricity and unskilled employment opportunities.

    Pushing this further, it might be argued that the whole issue is a front for the economic recolonization of third world countries by those who now pretend to decry historical examples of colonization, but really see the opportunities to be gained by infiltrating populations with less-developed institutional protections.

  2. Dr Fred Lenin

    The windmillers should be taken to the globalite world court and charged with birdicide and baticide, ,the number of both species killed by the carpetbagger tax money guzzlers must be huge . Now there is an environmental issue of major proportions . A nice little bit of lawfare against the crony capitalists would be good ,let the lawtrade chew up a lot of their profits,they wont like that one bit , probably get the career pollies they own to legistlate against birds and bats ,cant have the career pollies missing out on bribe money .

  3. stackja

    All that matters is the money they get.

  4. min

    One of the reasons stated for spending trillions on CO2 abatement is the need to insure against the risk . However this could mean we have spent all the money if it turns out that another variable of all the the other possibilities is the culprit over which we have no control such as sun spots, then no insurance .

  5. Well, the system is on the edge.
    One coal fired plant being damaged and non operational will push the system into blackout territory.
    They were warned.
    The best part of it all is the Greens occupying the inner city spaces will have to cop the power shortages in their sealed apartment sarcophagi. They will not be pleasant places to inhabit when there’s no power to run the ventilation, let alone the aircon. The steps will be quite a thrill for the fitness fiends doing ten flights of stairs a couple of times a day.

  6. Bruce of Newcastle

    Empirical (scientific justification)
    Engineering
    Economic
    Environmental
    Ethical

    Nil
    Nil
    Nil
    Nil
    Nil
    Here’s another one from today which covers both (4) and (5):

    Growing evidence of wind farms’ horrific toll on wildlife: This time from India

    As reported by the Daily Mail last November (and otherwise largely ignored by the media), researchers in India found almost four times fewer buzzards, hawks, and kites in areas with wind farms – a loss of about 75%. Startled by the data, scientists are now referring to wind turbines as “the new apex predator.”

    In areas without wind turbines about 19 birds were spotted every three hours, while in areas with the spinning blades the number dropped to five.

    The hypocrisy of the green left that embraces such carnage – 75% of all raptors plus who knows how many other species – yet gets terribly excited about a few black throated finches.

    And that is before the well known appalling economics, grid disruption, end-of-life disposal problems, less than expected performance, REE extraction pollution issues and real harm on local human populations. Then as cherry on top global warming has ceased in the real world data this last couple of decades (except in the computers of warmist scientists and their “adjustments”).

    By all means if you really want renewable energy build solar panels, even if they are expensive. At least they don’t cause the incredible carnage to wildlife and harm to people that bloody wind turbines cause.

  7. RobK

    Unless we go nuclear.
    Baseload works well with diurnal storage or peaker gas. Either way, RE is a redundant, superfluous expensive option .

  8. egg_

    The sustainability of renewable energy and the five Es

    The extreme ease with which they lighten the Commonwealth wallet.

  9. This essay might be of some interest.

  10. Rafe Champion

    Great piece thanks Michael K.

  11. Herodotus

    RE Predators?
    No, this is above all a political failure. The pollies have put the warped priorities in place.
    Unless our politicians are prepared to argue against the tide of leftism endemic in the media, we are stuffed on so many fronts. The Victorian birth certificates law is all the evidence I need to support my multi-faceted prognosis.

  12. BoyfromTottenham

    Is anything really ‘sustainable’ for ever? Or is everything ‘sustainable’ in some way. Like many terms loved by the Left, in the final analysis ‘sustainability’ probably means nothing. So let’s not tie ourselves in knots playing to their songbook. Use traditional project evaluation methodology, and assume that the world and humanity will be here for the working life of the project.

  13. Tel

    The hypocrisy of the green left that embraces such carnage – 75% of all raptors plus who knows how many other species – yet gets terribly excited about a few black throated finches.

    They banned DDT for doing a lot less than that … then afterwards pretended there was no DDT ban, just everyone voluntarily decided not to use it.

  14. Fat Tony

    Tel
    #3051046, posted on June 24, 2019 at 8:57 am
    They banned DDT for doing a lot less than that … then afterwards pretended there was no DDT ban, just everyone voluntarily decided not to use it.

    And how many millions have died because of that “great leap forward”??

  15. DaveR

    Forget how Renewable Energy stacks up on sustainability.

    How does it stack up on proper accounting?

    We still have to day green zealots and their useful idiots telling us renewables have now become cheaper than fossil fuel generated power. Only when the subsidies are included, and other network standby and stabilisation costs are excluded.

    Can’t we have an accounting standard for standardised reporting costs in this area?

  16. Herodotus

    Thanks Michael – Progressives Against Progress sums it up well.

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